Social proof and its role in driving purchasing decisions is nothing new: word-of-mouth marketing is a testament to this. But it remains equally relevant in today’s digital era, not least for ecommerce. Read on to discover our insights into the role of expertise in ecommerce social proof to achieve your own business success.
What is social proof?
Imagine this scenario: you’ve taken a trip out of town with a good friend, and you’re walking along a street of restaurants, trying to choose somewhere to eat. Which will you choose: the empty diner on the corner, or the small cozy café bustling with life? More often than not, we choose the latter.
Most people will naturally gravitate towards the option which other people already seem to have made a good decision about. This is social proof in its most basic form, and its principles can be applied to online purchasing decisions in just the same way.
Indeed, social proof is nothing new: think of the old word-of-mouth marketing adage, which the success of today’s social media marketing is built upon. Social proof is not only still relevant but is more relevant than ever as people become more active consumers, especially in the online world.
The potential for ecommerce businesses to take advantage of social proof is massive. And one of the best ways ecommerce businesses can achieve this is by making the most of expertise and really focus in on high-value customers.
The Role of Expertise
When people are making decisions based on social proof, they are taking into account judgments about the expertise of that social proof, and thus how much value they should give to it. Without expertise, a review or a statement will have less value (and less impact).
Here are four great ways that ecommerce businesses can take advantage of this role of expertise and use it to build up social proof for their own businesses:
Certification, qualification, and verification
An obvious way to gain recognition as an expert in a certain field is to display relevant certifications, qualifications, and verification badges.
This is highly relevant to ecommerce businesses looking to establish and grow their social proof, and an easy one to achieve.
Depending on your sector, there may be professional membership organizations which you could join to show that you are serious and an expert in your field. You could show that you have won some awards, been featured in a local paper, or that you are trusted by important members of the community.
And if you’ve got an academic qualification related to your ecommerce business, make sure you proudly show off all your relevant qualifications on your seller profile. A team page with credentials will also help — especially if you are operating in a more technical niche.
Let’s say you’re a qualified sports physiotherapist and sell physio training equipment, but instead of managing your own website you sell via the Amazon marketplace. You’ll be selling your products alongside your competitors, so it’s important that you make your Amazon vendor profile stand out by displaying your qualifications prominently.
Threading in expertise in your listing and product content is also a good idea — this is not just about setting up badges and forgetting about it, but about really displaying expert knowledge throughout the customer journey.
An obvious sign of expertise is a celebrity. When thinking of the celebrities we know – whether from popular culture, sports or politics – we generally assume that these celebrities are all at the top of their games. We assign respect to them based on their level of expertise in their field.
So, a great way to make the most of this is to attract celebrity endorsement or affiliation with your business. And by business, we really mean brand, because that’s an important factor in creating an atmosphere of expertise around your business in the first place.
People will view that endorsement with high regard as they attribute values of expertise to the celebrity. Additionally, if a celebrity helps to promote your brand, you can suddenly reach a whole new audience.
Social influencers & bloggers
Over the past few years, a whole new industry has opened up in our digital world, that of the influencer. Otherwise ordinary members of the public, individuals have created careers for themselves on the back of their large social media followings, often competing with those A-list celebrities mentioned above, becoming stars in their own right.
By creating popular YouTube videos and attracting thousands of followers and views, content creators not only receive an income based on those views but can build their own careers as influencers. Again, their viewers see them as experts in their field, and social proof can be transferred to any brands and businesses they might work with.
And as with celebrities, influencers often have a very large audience online. Their huge social media followings which gave them their influential status in the first place can be tapped into by brands looking to access these unique, often highly targeted audiences.
This means there are two opportunities here for ecommerce businesses: to become expert social media influencers in their own field, or to work alongside existing influencers to tap into their networks.
There are many different ways to work with influencers, but just make sure you are tapping into a network that resonates with your brand. Misaligned influencer marketing is an expensive waste of time.
Crowd & community
Of course, let’s not forget another fantastic resource to make the most of expertise when it comes to building and growing ecommerce social proof: your customers and community themselves.
With platforms like TripAdvisor and Trustpilot growing in popularity, it has become the new norm for general members of the public to voice their views online. This is often with the explicit aim of influencing the popularity of a business, for better or worse, depending on their experience of whatever they are reviewing.
Don’t underestimate the expertise of your own customers and the community you’ve built around your brand. Acknowledge your customers as experts in their own right and their expertise can indeed be used once again to further endorse your brand amongst their peers.
This kind of things works especially well in the tech market, whose customer base typically features a close-knit community of gadget wizards who know what they’re talking about. You only take a quick look at the reviews on any of the gadget stores for sale online to find intelligent analysis of tech and electronics from customers who know the product inside and out. This makes for great social proof straight from your customers that is both expert and valuable.
Make sure you create opportunities for people to share their views and attribute real weight to whatever they say:
- Display reviews throughout your website and your customer journey
- Integrate people’s pictures and social profiles wherever possible
- Thank people for their reviews
- Respond to reviews and show the willingness to make amendments and change based on their feedback.
There is no doubt that social proof is as important today as word-of-mouth has ever been for businesses. And with the advent of the digital world, ecommerce businesses have a fantastic opportunity to explore their role of expertise in building & growing their own social proof. By taking advantage of celebrity, influencers, certification, and your very own customers, expertise can help endorse your brand and improve your social proof.
Patrick Foster is the founder of Ecommerce Tips, a digital community, and hub for ecommerce entrepreneurs from around the world. To find his latest guides, opinions, and articles, find him on Twitter @myecommercetips.