Why and How Social Proof Influences Consumers
It’s safe to say that in today’s consumer landscape, customers don’t only look at one form of marketing when making a purchasing decision. They amalgamate a number of factors, such as advertising, word-of-mouth, sponsorships, brand, and social proof, the latter possibly the most important of the bunch. Social proofs, such as reviews, social likes, “trusted brand” badges, verified checkmarks, and others are an incredibly powerful tool that can convert online browsing into actual sales. In a recent Trustpilot report, we found that 66% of customers said the presence of social proof increased their likelihood to purchase a product.
But how does social proof influence customers exactly? The reality is, peer-to-peer systems that implement social proof have become increasingly popular because consumer trust in advertising is declining. People are aware of the purpose of ads — retailers and brands are trying to sell them things. Today, consumers need help with their purchasing decisions, and social proof offers the authentic, transparent guidance that customers want and crave — but can seldom get from ads. The psychology of social proof is broken down into four categories:
- Uncertainty: Consumers look to social proof for guidance when they're in unfamiliar situations.
- Similarity: Consumers gather and use feedback from sources and people they personally relate to.
- Expertise: Consumers value opinions and verification from people who are more knowledgeable and/or experienced than themselves.
- Number: Consumers consider the number of satisfied customers before them, and the resulting trust signals they find, as a reason to buy or walk away.
Interestingly enough, Trustpilot found some types of social proof are more influential than others in the eyes of shoppers. Among surveyed consumers, 82 percent said positive star ratings and reviews ranked as the most trusted social proof to them, followed by authorized seller badges (77 percent) and safe checkout badges (76 percent).
Our survey results revealed the younger customers are, the more likely they are to be influenced by trust signals. There was a significant gap between Gen Z customers, the youngest generation of consumers, and the other generations. In fact, 72 percent of Gen Z-ers were more likely to purchase based on social proof vs. 66 percent of millennials, 65 percent of Gen X-ers, and 63 percent of baby boomers. The data shows that trust signals are becoming even more important, as the next generation of shoppers clearly embraces them more than older consumers.
Since consumers no longer base their purchasing decision solely on advertisements, it’s important to understand a key part of marketing falls with trust signals — regardless of what industry you’re in. The best way to communicate with trust signals is to understand your audience and target them effectively, using a mix of social proof, advertisements and placements. With 98 percent of customers saying they could identify at least one type of trust signal that increased their likelihood to make a purchase, these factors influence consumers all across the world, in all generations, and all stages of the buyer’s journey.
The full Trustpilot report can be downloaded for free here.
Don Ross is president of Americas at Trustpilot, the world's most powerful review platform.
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Don Ross is President of Americas at Trustpilot, the world's most powerful review platform.
Don joined Trustpilot in October 2016. Formerly the CEO of Bankrate.com, he and his team grew the personal financial service website’s revenue from $79M to over $550M in under nine years. Don works to further grow Trustpilot’s business and revenue, and cement its position in North America. Previously, he served as the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Harris Connect, Inc. and SVP of Sales at Worldweb.net. Don holds a Masters of Marketing & Advertising from Michigan State University and Executive Education in Sustainable Marketing Leadership from Harvard Business School.