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Robert Cialdini first gave it a name: the social and psychological phenomenon in which people who are uncertain of what to do copy the actions of others. This phenomenon, known as the ‘Social Proof Theory’, is valued as a positive component of websites in for example our large-scale Health Insurance study or our Business Lease study. Social Proof is proven method to create a ‘Bandwagon effect’. This is how CZ (Insurer), Independer (comparison website), Nikon, Simpel (Sim Only Provider), Athlon (Lease company), and Statefarm (Insurer) use Social Proof:

Forms of Social Proof

There are different forms of Social proof (as formulated by Buffer):

  • 1. Authority Figure: an expert gives sound advice to a website visitor or a celebrity reccomends a c
  • 2. Celebrity: a celebrity recommends a company’s products.
  • 3. User: a user leaves a positive review based on their own experience.
  • 4. The wisdom of the crowd: several people highly recommend the company.
  • 5. The wisdom of friends: your own friends recommend a product or company.
  • 6. Certification: a logo or seal by which the company proves to have earned an award or recognition.

1. Social Proof by Expert: “not quite satisfactory, but offers ample coverage” is the honest advice by Independer

When choosing health insurance, the offer is extensive and the providers appear similar – which makes it difficult to choose. Independer takes on the role of Expert in this process. After entering several personal details, the comparator provides advice. Independer says the following about health insurance provider Zilveren Kruis: “not quite satisfactory but offers ample coverage”.

Influencer marketing falls under both Expert and Celebrity. The influencer acts as an expert when doing an Instagram shout out or a takeover for a brand – this is where the influencer tries out the products or services of that brand and gives advice accordingly:

2. Social Proof by Celebrity: J.K. Simmons recommends Farmers Insurance’s product

J.K. Simmons (LaLaLand, Juno, Wiplash) is the face of Farmers Insurance in the United States. During short 30-second commercials the actor explains what is and isn’t covered when insured through Farmers Insurance. His presence in the commercials was mentioned in the auto insurance study (USA) as well: “Oscar dude appears helpful.” Nike, Elvive, Covergirl, Campina, and RedBull also use celebrities for this purpose.

Social Proof: Nikon Ambassador

More recently, well-known influencers are invited to recommend a product or service. An example is the collaboration between Jorg Ruis (Culture Builders) and Centraal Beheer (Insurer in the Netherlands):

3 and 4: A good score: CZ combines Wisdom of the crowd with experiences from the user

CZ cleverly works on winning the consumer’s trust on their website. In between the text, the customer will find:

Social Proof: Rating

The health insurance provider receives 4 stars based on more than 4000 reviews. A good example of combining the wisdom of the crowd with user experiences.

Athlon.com also shows customer reviews on their website. The lease car provider receives a score of 8.4 based on scores provided by 26,868 lease drivers. If the visitor clicks on the score, a window opens that explains what the score is based on. The score for ‘reachable by phone’ (far left), ‘response time to questions’, ‘customer friendliness of employees’ and ‘meets expectations’ (far right) are explained by stars and number of respondents. Another example of how to use the Social Proof tactics of ‘user’ and ‘the wisdom of the crowd’.

Furthermore, webshops like Amazon, fonQ, and Coolblue also use the wisdom of the crowd in combination with reviews by the user.

5. Your friends like this: social proof from your own network

The ‘wisdom of friends’ is similar to the offline word of mouth. Online word of mouth is given through Facebook by providing tips, pages that your friends like, and events that your friends will be attending. Uber (Eats) and OneFit also use the wisdom of friends. With the ‘friends link’ you and your friends can receive a discount on food or a gym membership.

(Uber Eats: share this special code with friends. When they use Uber Eats for the first time, they will receive a 5 euro discount on their order, and you will receive a 5 euro discount on yours)
(OneFit: Receive a 10 euro discount and discover OneFit together with friends)

6. Simpel and Athlon: a quality seal ensures external validation

Simpel is a sim-only provider and underlines its message by using statements like “Simpel uses the T-Mobile network: the fastest and best tested mobile network in the Netherlands.” ‘Best tested mobile network’ is a reference to a certification: a quality seal.

Athlon.com clearly states that they were chosen ‘best leasing company’ in 2017/2018. The website visitor recognizes this: “The website immediately shows a list of options. It has the seal of best leasing company.” An example of how to use a certification to your advantage!

Consumentenbond and Kieskeurig provide well-known quality seals/labels. Companies like Simpel, Philips, and Stellafietsen display a clearly recognizable external validation on their website.

Customer Experience is Your Brand Differentiator

The experience on your website is compared to the best online experience each consumer has had thus far. As a result, consumers expect a better experience each time they visit your website.

How You Can Compete With The Best in CX

Model these 27 Customer Experience Best Practices to improve your website and rise above the competition. The Best Practices in this document were written by customer experience researchers based on more than 100 online sales studies we conducted – and are therefore based on digital customer experiences of thousands of consumers.