Harvesting social proof in ecommerce close

Mark McDermott
In Codegent College
19th April 2013
Harvesting social proof in ecommerce

Quite simply having positive customer feedback of your product or service on the internet will have a dramatic increase on conversion rate. Social proof is a key factor in the decision making process and is defined as:

Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.

So as internet marketers what can we do to encourage and capture this power? Here are a few simple ideas:

Publish Social Statistics

By including facebook, Twitter, Google+ like/share buttons on all of your pages you will facilitate the social reach of your message as well as build numerical social proof. With every like your number increments. This is published on your page and purveys a message that if many people liked it I probably will too. A like requires minimal effort from the user and makes the sentiment very clear, although it lacks detail on exactly what was so favourable.

Other social proof statistics that are often published include the number of existing subscribers to a newsletter or amount of purchases a product has had. Assuming those metrics are impressive enough!


Comments on a product page are reviews aren’t they? Not necessarily. Ask a user to review something and you set an altogether different challenge. Firstly you would be expecting them to have actually used the product before reviewing so there at least is a time shift between their first arrival, purchase and subsequent post.

A review is quite specific whereas a comment is far more generic and therefore more likely to happen naturally. Whilst a “looks cool, I want one!” is hardly a discerning review it will contribute positively.

I am a big fan of the facebook comments plugin that you can easily add to your pages. Facebook users are typically already signed in via their browser.

Facebook Comments

This removes a large obstacle for the user (leaving their personal details or logging in). The comment is also optionally spread on the user’s own facebook feed alongside a link to your page to give context. This is incredibly useful social discovery as well as authentic social content for you. Comments can be moderated via facebook as well.


Favourable reviews and ratings have a direct impact on conversion rate, however they are not easy to harvest. The main difficulty is that a review requires reasonable effort on the part of the user and takes place after purchase. If you incentivise a review with rewards such as future discounts and make this prominent on packaging or ideally send a link via email a few days later you should be able to get some.

Consider working with third party review networks such as Trustpilot who have partnered with Google to provide reviews for Google Shopping and Google Ads. The impact of reviews at a search and discovery level is phenomenal, especially with the distinctive gold star images! According to Google:

On average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher CTR than the same ads without ratings.

Social proof helps you convert site visitors to customers by reinforcing their decision to buy. Decision validation from others or the fear of missing out will drive revenue and conversion. Have a think about how you can include more social proof in your digital strategy.