Every sale involves trust. Be it online or offline.

Question – How you establish trust with your visitor?

Answer – Social Proof

Why do people buy in the first place?

Let’s start at the beginning: why people buy something? Most purchases are right-brain driven then rationalised with the left brain. In simple terms, most purchases are emotional than logical.

In this world of ultra consumerism (topic for some other day), we need to make an emotional connection with someone before selling them on the logical need.

For building an emotional connection, you need a compelling story, massaging users desire, fulfilling an itch and many more. But for everything you need them to trust you before they start listening to you.

You need them to believe you before they start listening to your story and eventually buy your story in the long run.

Establishing Trust

Now coming to trust, you can establish trust in many ways. Honesty, being true your commitment and treat your customer well.

Sounds easy?

Challenge is you are just starting your interaction with the user. You haven’t reached the stage where the user is even listening to you. May be user is just browsing. 🙂

Social proof is an essential tool for this initial trust-building. Be it online or offline.

Introducing Social Proof

Social proofs have existed for many ages. We are psychologically wired to be influenced by them. Without going into deep psychology in simple English, they work.

Let’s start with types of social proof –

  1. Customer Reviews / Testimonials
  2. Expert Reviews / Approval
  3. Wisdom of Crowd
  4. Wisdom of Friends
  5. Certification / Accreditation
  6. Celebrity Endorsement

These are best used in a subtle manner and implementation varies from case to case. A/B testing is critical to know which kind of social proof works for you.

Wisdom Of Crowd

When the wisdom of the crowd matters more than the wisdom of the individual. Real-life examples are –

The line outside a famous restaurant at 7 pm on Monday and you believe if you many people are going into it, then food must be good.

When you see more cars parked outside a stop on a highway, you believe food must be good.

Movies running with house ful board.

Any political rally/protest you see and get influenced by how many people are involved in that cause?

Why does it work?

People believe in herd mentality. If lots of people are doing it, then it might be right.

You might not be knowing the other person. Might not be talking to them to learn about their experience.

Wisdom of crowd works when there is lots of mud in the water. You have thin leverage and if its good enough for some then its good enough for me.

Works Best in fashion, food and impulsive buying.

Wisdom of Friends

We get influenced by our peers, friends and social acquaintance. Closer the bond, the higher the influence.

Wisdom of friends is a type of influence which is tough to crack for a company, but you can always use on the social platforms.

Like ads running on Facebook, which shows as your friends like it.

Trip advisor shows reviews of your friends.

Mostly this is going too far, even regular reviews or wisdom of the crowd will work. But this is the gold standard of any recommendation but very tough to get it out in brands.

Certification / Accreditation

Sometimes for complicated items, you are not sure about the nitty-gritty of the process. Like for an FDA approval for food and drugs. Even heavy equipment have multiple certifications or accreditations.

This works best when you need to have something to clear the benchmark for the consumer like part of some group to be eligible to do the business. Most b2b companies have a requirement.

From ISO certification to adobe marketing certifications are useful to showcase your expertise in a section.

I think they are good to flaunt but works best where things are complicated. They are not easily comprehendible to end-user, so you need certification of skills to be sure about the minimum benchmark.

Celebrity / Influencer Endorsement

I think there is little doubt about this one. Earlier it used to be big celebrities and now its social media influencers.

It’s different from the expert in some ways and sometimes overlaps with expert reviews. Like Kim Kardashian talking about fashion can be considered as an expert (some might disagree :)) but she endorsing cars is just simple endorsement.

Endorsement works as the rented audience from the celebrity to get exposure and trust.

Coming from someone you celebrate and follow is more memorable and relatable then 20-second media slot.

Works for most of the brands in b2c space. New brands need more celebrity endorsements than old brands. Also, if you can get the brand image and celebrity image mixed, then it makes more sense. Otherwise, go with expert endorsement.

Expert Reviews / Approval

Expert reviews work in mainly two areas –

  1. You are not that knowledgeable in broad segments like electronics, cars or even in pure business segments like analytics tool, productivity tool or any other business tool.
  2. You have taste aligned with that person, and you are willing to do with their recommendation. Like in movies, books and food.

In the second type to get the taste aligned is more crucial as even a great expert can’t give you good food recommendation if your taste is not aligned.

So for businesses, expert reviews make sense in the vertical categories where people have little understanding. Like insurance, mutual funds etc.

Customer Reviews / Testimonials

This is the simplest form of social proof. People rely on these for less for the product and more about the service. Product usage might be dependent on the individual tastes, but overall use can be gauged by reading reviews.

For trying new product where stakes are not very high, and you are just looking for decent service.

Let’s take fashion for examples, how dress fits might not be relevant to you as it might differ from an individual, but how the material feels and colours brightness might be useful for you to judge from reviews.

Most effective, but everyone doesn’t need too many reviews like amazon, IMDb even simple ratings like uber will work for most of the businesses.

Testimonial / review / logos / case studies / PR mentions / numbers / trust seals / certifications & awards / graph