In short:

  • E-commerce retailers stand to grow sales if they sprinkle social proof, or customer endorsements, on their site and other marketing channels.
  • On-site, social proof may look like including customer and employee reviews on product pages, among other tactics.
  • Other channels that stand to benefit from social proof include your social media page (hey Instagram!) and customer-facing emails.

Every step along the customer journey should have an element that influences a shopper toward a purchase, whether that’s a beautiful product image or enticing discount. And once those shoppers become customers, you can make them part of that sphere of influence.

Using social proof(opens in new tab), a type of conformity where one person copies the action of another, as a part of the on-site e-commerce experience can be an effective strategy for increasing sales. A social proof strategy is essentially influencer marketing(opens in new tab), except the focus is on real customers.

According to a survey from Five9, 77% of consumers would do business with a company because of strong brand loyalty from friends or peers. Compare that to only 30% who would do business based on celebrity endorsements, and you can see the power peers possess.

How to actually use user-generated content (UGC) as social proof on your e-commerce site

Luckily for online retailers, a lot of social proof content is either already in their possession or easily available to them. Let’s explore a few ways retailers can utilize social proof to drive sales.

  • Product reviews

Retailers spend a lot of time trying to collect product reviews, and for good reason. Sixty-five percent of consumers(opens in new tab) commonly reference product reviews before making a purchase. If you collect reviews and people check them, why not use them to your advantage?

The typical product review generally consists of three primary elements: the rating, written testimonial and a piece of user-generated media like a picture or video. As a retailer, you can use one or all of these elements to showcase the top-rated products for different categories and provide customer quotes on product pages and in social media posts, paid search ads and your email marketing.

Look at a product page from the retailer Nine West(opens in new tab). It offers a product review section that allows users to vote on the helpfulness of the review, similar to upvoting. It also displays the date, name and in some instances the location of the customers who reviewed the products. This makes the reviews much more personal and relatable.

Ninewest reviews screenshot

Forever 21(opens in new tab) augments the typical product review by including a section directly below the main product image called “Why Did You Choose This?”. In some instances, the responses are casual, like “Looks really cute.” For others, you’ll see responses like “Already bought this in grey and loved it. Had to have it in black.”

How’s that for a product endorsement? As you scroll down the product page, you’ll find the complete set of product reviews.

forever 21 screenshot
  • Website Q&A sections

Q&A sections on product pages have increased in popularity and can now be found on some of the major online marketplaces(opens in new tab).

Personally, I find the Q&A useful in helping me make my purchase decision. Even though they might be strangers answering the questions, I tend to trust them. One thing I like about these sections is that they often address more specific questions, such as the circumference of a shoe heel or the compatibility of one product with another.

To see this in action, check out how Sole Society product pages combine the Q&A with product review sections.

Sole Society reviews
Sole Society Q&A
  • Employee picks

When a store employee recommends for or against a product, customers usually listen.

Take advantage of this employee persuasion power by finding ways to offer employee recommendations on your website. This could take the form of employee-selected gift guides, favorite products of the season or just an employee’s flavor of the week.

It probably makes sense to include a quick quote from the employee, and you may want to further humanize the employee by mentioning their name and location.

Using social proof in other channels

Don’t forget about the power of social proof in your other marketing channels, such as on social media and in email.

  • Email marketing

Regarding your email marketing program, product reviews can be used in just about any type of message, whether it be a standard promotional message or targeted send, such as a cart abandonment message.

You might also create dedicated “customer favorite,” “highest-rated” and “employee favorite” emails — you can even include secondary content sections featuring these products.

  • Social media

Social media(opens in new tab) is a social proof goldmine. After all, it’s where customers interact with your brand and share their stories for all to see.

Posting customer quotes, highlighting top-rated products, responding to customer posts and using special hashtags are a few ways to not only showcase a product but also elicit conversation and feedback from your audience.

  • Combining social and web

Find ways to combine UGC and your online storefront. Munchkin has a main section on its product pages called “Munchkin Moments(opens in new tab).” These photos are user-submitted and show a real-life customer (or in this case, their kid) using the products. Tying social and web together takes the product page to another level.

Munchkin Moments
  • Influencers

Finally, we can’t talk about social media and not mention influencers. If you do use influencers as part of your marketing strategy(opens in new tab), find ways to incorporate them into your website and emails.

For instance, you can create an email that showcases influencer-picked products. On your storefront, you could showcase that the product is influencer-approved. Find ways to work with influencers on content that benefits all parties.

�� The bottom line

No matter how you cut it, social proof can positively influence customers and increase sales. Look for areas you can find this form of content, and determine how you can best leverage it to influence shoppers.

Trust me, they’re open to suggestions.