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Work the Power of Social Proof for More Online Conversions


In the online world, having influence isn’t easy. The sheer volume of virtual voices angling to be heard can tend to dilute a company’s ability to directly affect buyer behavior. So when it comes to optimizing your site for more conversions, just how do you use influence in an effective way? In some cases, social proof is the answer.

In an ecommerce conversion path, the power of social proof is obvious. We look for product reviews and ratings. We are strongly swayed by what’s “most popular” or “best selling.” So why don’t more retail sites use social proof as a way to drive conversions? Three possible reasons:

1. They haven’t bought in to the power of social proof

2. They don’t have the backend capabilities built in to support social proof

3. They don’t have enough customer weigh-in, or have more negative than positive feedback

Leveraging your customer feedback is a proven way to incite purchases. So if none of the above applies to you, consider testing social proof on your page.

We chose a national shoe retailer to demonstrate just how you can optimize your site for a conversion kick. Payless ShoeSource is a store with a devoted customer base and phenomenal online traffic. They have a primarily female demographic, which already puts them in a good position for social proof. Why? Because women tend towards community behaviors, and definitely are looking for the opinions of others—especially when it comes to shoes.

Payless has all the elements to push social proof—ratings, trends, most popular—but we think they should test the position of this tactic. They could accomplish what they are currently going for with the current homepage in a much cleaner way, while getting some excellent learnings from the data. So, here’s what we think are shoo-ins for more Payless conversions. (Oops. I did it again.)

Payless should try the less is more approach. The top module with “Summer Sale” is incredibly busy, with six sliders all focusing on one sale. We suggest taking the social proof route and using only three sliders, categorized like this:

1. Hot Trends—This is where they could show the summer sandals or any other trends they are focusing on. If having the sale portion is vital, we recommend using one slider only to focus on that sale. This would be a great test to see what slider content gets the most click-to-conversions.

2. Most Popular/Highest Ratings—Women respond to what other women are buying. If they see that a majority of customers are liking the neon gladiator sandals, then they have the push of confidence needed to make the purchase. Whether featuring top sellers or five-star rated shoes, it’s a smart bet that this will push more conversions.

3. Stylist Picks/Designers—Payless has gotten some impressive, well-known fashion designers on board, and their names could be used to push more sales. We recommend testing one panel with the designers as the feature. It’s simple enough to use the already-existing graphic from the designers page, and make each designer clickable to go to their shoes.

For even more conversion power, give them more search power.

One last thing we’d love to see tested on the Payless site (and this could easily be put as a static module to the right of the top slider module); an advanced search function. Rather than just a simple search bar at the top, it would be great to see a search module with dropdowns for Men’s/Womens, Size, Color, etc. and a large CTA button that drove to a results page. This would also give Payless some valuable learnings about what their customers were searching for.

Social proof has the ability to really make a difference in your conversions. The trick is to do it right; authenticity is key. Customers can see through fabricated social proof very easily, so draw on it only if your site is generating it. By capturing ratings, using platforms like Twitter and Facebook and tracking sales to determine what’s popular, you can build an impressive testing plan that has needle-moving potential.