You know the old question: “If your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump too?” In this case, the answer will invariably be “no”, but when it comes to consumer purchasing decisions, the opposite is true.

A timeless phenomenon gets a name.

The term “Social Proof” was initially coined in 1984 by Robert Cialdini, and it describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to replicate behavior in a given situation. Meaning: if all of your friends think a new product is cool or that a brand is hip, chances are you will too, as we always look to others to see what the collective response to something is. Take Apple, for example… Steve Jobs was a genius in many aspects of business, but what set him apart from others was his ability to understand consumer behavior, and how important emotional investment in a product was. During his second tenure at the company, beginning in the late 90’s, he reinvigorated the Apple brand with the Think Different campaign. It was a mark of differentiation that said, “hey, Apple is a lifestyle brand, and that lifestyle is elegant and simple, and if you own Apple products then everyone will know that you are a cut above people that own products from other brands.” In combination with a string of revolutionary product releases, Jobs catapulted Apple to the top of their industry. He had laid the groundwork for Social Proof to take hold – when all of your friends had an iPod, chances are you thought that having one would be cool too.

The new retail arms race.

The advent of online shopping brought about many difficulties for early ecommerce merchants. If I put my credit card information into this website, is my information going to get stolen? Is my product going to look just like the picture when it shows up? How do I return this product if I don’t want it? The last 25 years has been a slow process of removing conversion impediments. From growing comfortable giving a website their credit card information, to gleaning the value of a certain product in relation to others via customer reviews, society as a whole has had to learn how to shop online. In turn, online merchants have had to build better shopping experiences with better functionalities to keep up with the demands of shoppers. It has switched from online merchants battling main street, to online merchants battling each other. Building social proof has become a key part of a brands online sales strategy.

How are ecommerce brands building social proof?

There are lots of functions that successful online sellers are now implementing into their stores to help show shoppers that their store is popular. But one method of displaying social proof remains the most important and fundamental of all. That is having a large social media following.

Do you ever find yourself browsing a website, and then clicking through on their Facebook or Instagram icon to see how many followers they have? Chances are you do this… we all do. Not only does a large social media following build trust with a potential shopper, but it’s a validation of a brand’s popularity. The more popular a brand appears, the more likely a shopper will buy from it.

The only problem with the above scenario is that a shopper must exit a merchant’s website and go to their social media pages to check on the number of followers they have. Anytime a customers shopping experience is disrupted like this, the chances of them completing a checkout drop exponentially. Sometimes the smallest of impediments can have huge effects on a companies conversion rate. This annoyed us, so we built a super simple solution for Shopify merchants: Social Count. It’s a public Shopify app that adds a live count of social media followers to a merchants social media icons. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up, and requires no coding experience. Check it out here if you are looking for simple ways to help build your social proof!