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Research on the “Bandwagon effect” shows that people truly are ‘herd animals’. The Bandwagon phenomenon describes people’s tendency to conform to a group. Some proven methods, such as social proof, testimonials, and client cases, effectively play into this ‘Bandwagon effect’. But what is the Bandwagon effect exactly? And… how can you benefit from the knowledge you have on this effect when optimizing your digital customer experience?

The effect: A cognitive bias

The Bandwagon Effect refers to people doing or saying things just because other people are doing or saying them – often they ignore their own principles or the underlying evidence telling them that they shouldn’t. This has been proven in the Asch Conformity Test, in which research participants were asked to point out two lines that have the same length. They initially had a little trouble with the task at hand, until other ‘test subjects’ (actors) claimed two lines (with different lengths) had the same length. Overall, 75% of participants gave at least one incorrect answer out of 12 trials.

The general rule is that conduct or beliefs spread among people (becoming trending), with “the probability of any individual adopting it increasing with the proportion of people who have already done so” (Colman, Andrew 2003). The more people believe it, the sooner other people “jump on the bandwagon”. This effect creates a cognitive bias, influenced and caused by social factors like ‘groupthink’ and the desire to be included. Basically it’s a safe bet to do as others have done.

If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?

If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you? You wouldn’t, of course, but if many people tell you that you should, because it is such an incredible experience and you find out that even your favorite celebrity has done it, you will be more inclined to follow suit.

The Bandwagon Effect is observable both offline and online. It can be observed in fashion trends, political preference, music (the more people listen to a certain band, the more popular it becomes) and even the stock market is subject to the Bandwagon Effect.

How to use the “Jump on the Bandwagon Effect” to improve your digital CX

  1. Add reviews to your website: “X people rate our product with an 8.9!” Or, “Already more than 690,000 satisfied customers.” Items such as “Best Seller” and “Most chosen option” fall into the same category. More on Social Proof here.
  2. Client Case: a story in which a product is explained. How does it work, when does it apply, and how has the product added value for your customers? A client case is an example of 1 customer. It is therefore primarily a supplement to the opinion of many, which goes a bit further than just a rating.
  3. Testimonials: people with authority in their field have a far-reaching opinion. Consider, for example, the so-called “endorsements” in American commercials, “4 out of 5 dentists recommend Colgate”, “the most used brand of toothbrush according to dentists.”
  4. Quality certifications are quality marks issued by reliable organizations. A good example is the CE mark on products as per the Better Business Bureau (Consumentenbond in the Netherlands). Quality certifications are also a form of social proof.
  5. Show activity on your website: showing customer activity on the website does not only create urgency but also shows that there are others interested in a particular product or making your product appear more desirable.

Image: How Booking.com makes use of both the Bandwagon effect as social proof: Activity, reviews and ‘1 person looked for your dates’ creating urgency.