Social Proof and customer references in e-commerce: ecommerce hack #10

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The importance of social proof for e-commerce

Positive reviews play a central role in e-commerce and related marketing by boosting customer confidence and significantly influencing purchasing decisions. These effects can be harnessed and explained by several psychological and practical mechanisms.

Firstly, positive reviews serve as a form of social proof - we will come to this 'social proof' in more detail below. In a digital world where shoppers cannot physically check an offer online, stars, points and reviews provide a trustworthy source of information about the quality, reliability and simply the usefulness of a product. They reduce the uncertainty often associated with online purchases by reporting from the perspective of real users. When store visitors see that other people have had good experiences with a product or service, this social component increases their faith in the decision to buy the same product.

Secondly, good scores boost a provider's credibility. In an environment where consumers have many options, positive customer feedback helps a company stand out from the competition. A high number of positive reviews not only signals satisfaction with the product, but also that the customer service is good and the seller is reliable. This strengthens the credibility of the brand as a whole.

Thirdly, high scores influence the purchase decision by building trust. Consumers tend to view recommendations from other buyers as more credible than advertising claims, perceiving them as the real experts. Good reviews act like personal recommendations, increasing the likelihood that a buyer will decide to make a purchase online.

Finally, positive reviews also have a direct influence on the visibility of a product in online search results. Many e-commerce platforms and search engines use customer reviews as a factor to determine the order of search results. Items with more stars are often listed higher, which leads to more visibility and ultimately more sales.

What is social proof?

In the e-commerce context, social proof means that people are more likely to buy a product or use a service if they see that others also like the service or product. This is actually a marketing classic. The term, also known as “social proof”, is a psychological phenomenon that states that people tend to adopt the actions or opinions of others, especially when they are in an uncertain situation.

Types of Social Proof

Experts distinguish between different types of social proof that can be used in e-commerce:

Customer ratings and reviews: Product and store ratings from other customers - whether on review portals or in a blog - are one of the most effective forms of social proof. They give interested parties an insight into the experiences of other buyers and can strongly influence their purchasing decision.
Testimonials and case studies: Case studies and testimonials from company customers who have had positive experiences with a product or service can be very convincing. They show interested parties how well the product or service has specifically helped other companies or other people that they are currently finding out about online.
User statistics:
Figures that show the popularity or number of users of a product.
Social media engagement:
The number of social likes, shares and comments on social media can also serve as social proof. They show prospective buyers that many people are interested in the product or service and are talking positively about it.
Celebrities and influencers:
If celebrities or influencers endorse a product or service online, this can have a significant influence on the purchasing decision of potential customers.
Awards and certifications:
Awards and certifications from reputable organizations can boost the credibility of a company and its offerings.
Seals of approval and certifications:
Third-party features that confirm the quality and safety of a product can also be loaded with social proof.

Customer references - social proof deluxe? 

Customer testimonials go one step further than social proof. They provide store visitors with detailed information about other customers' experiences with a product or service. This can take the form of interviews, case studies or video testimonials. What might look a bit static like marketing without these ingredients, looks much more genuine with these appearances.


Create trust: Customer testimonials from real people appear authentic and credible. They can help prospective buyers to build confidence in a company and its product portfolio.
Increase the conversion rate:
Studies by experts have shown that customer testimonials can significantly increase the conversion rate.
Improve customer loyalty:
Satisfied buyers who share their positive experiences with others are more likely to buy from a company again.
Provide valuable feedback:
Customer testimonials can provide companies with valuable insights into the experiences of their buyers and help them to improve their products and services.

How to use customer references effectively


Airbnb uses a smart system that reminds guests to leave a review after their stay. They send friendly emails and push notifications with reminders and even thank you in advance for the review. Uber sends a push notification to its users after every ride asking them to rate the driver and the ride. They use a simple star rating to make expressing satisfaction as straightforward as possible. HubSpot uses gamification to incentivize buyers to submit reviews. They reward users with points and badges when they write reviews or leave helpful comments in their community. offers travelers discounts or vouchers for future bookings after their stay if they leave a review. They also use social proof by showing how many other users have rated similar accommodations.


The social media sports app Strava displays the number of registered users and the training kilometers covered on its website. This conveys a sense of community and increases the assumption that the app is good.

Screenshot of Strava´s Homepages

ModCloth uses customer reviews and photos from real customers in their product galleries, which they can upload themselves.

Screenshot of a picture from ModCloth in a Blogpost from Cohley

Glossier runs a program called “Glossier Reps” where they work with dedicated fans of the brand who regularly talk about them. These Reps share their personal experiences with Glossier products on their social media profiles and often give their followers exclusive discount codes or recommendations.

Screenshot of Glossier´s Homepage


Wayfair regularly sends personalized email newsletters to its buyers highlighting items that have been selected based on their high marks and positive customer feedback. These emails include quotes from customer reviews as well as star ratings that are displayed right next to the product images. By embedding authentic customer testimonials in its emails, Wayfair creates a stronger emotional connection and increases shoppers' trust in the advertised products.

Zalando often uses photos of real people wearing the advertised products in their display ads. For example, in an ad for jeans, a group of friends are shown wearing their Zalando jeans.

Barilla uses quotes from customer reviews in its print ads. For example, in an ad for pasta sauce, which features a quote from a fan: “The best pasta sauce I've ever eaten!”

Casper uses video testimonials from satisfied people on its website and social media channels.


Start by actively asking customers for their opinion. This can be done by email, blog, pop-up in the store, again on social media or directly after a purchase. It is important to choose the right time when customer satisfaction is at its highest and to include a personal approach in marketing. If necessary, use automation tools such as HubSpot to bring routine into the approach.

Incentives such as discounts, vouchers or participation in competitions can be offered to increase motivation. Systems where points can be redeemed for rewards are also effective.

The evaluation process should be as short and simple as possible in order to lower the inhibition threshold. Forms should be short and clearly structured, and various evaluation options should be offered via different social and other channels. Mobile optimization is also important as more and more people use their smartphones for online activities.

Thank everyone who leaves a review, whether positive or negative. Show your buyers that you value their feedback and use it to improve your products and services. Communicate your appreciation on your blog. Respond to reviews and explain your perspective on negative entries. Encourage your customers to share their experiences on social media using hashtags and other engagement promoters. 


The main problem here is that fake or manipulated reviews can undermine customer trust. Companies may be tempted to remove negative reviews or stage positive reviews. Such practices can improve the image of a product in the short term, but in the long term they damage the brand's reputation and you want to avoid them in your marketing. In addition, platforms like Amazon can impose penalties or even suspend merchant accounts if they discover fraudulent reviews. Choose reputable technology providers that are recognized by customers and experts. Actively monitor reviews and take action against fake or negative entries. Make sure the review platforms are user-friendly and GDPR-compliant


Transparent review guidelines: Establish clear guidelines for collecting and publishing reviews. Openly state that all feedback, whether positive or negative, will be published as long as it adheres to the content guidelines.

Flag verified purchases:
Many e-commerce platforms allow you to flag reviews as a “Verified Purchase”. This shows that the review comes from someone who actually bought the product and increases the credibility of the review. See for example the “Verified Purchase” label on amazon.

Respond to reviews:
Respond publicly to customer reviews, especially negative ones. This shows that you take the feedback seriously and strive to improve your products or services.

Make incentives transparent: If you offer incentives to people for writing reviews, such as discounts or loyalty points, social media highlights. Make sure this is communicated transparently. Your reviewers should know that their reviews are published due to an incentive, but this should not influence the content of the review.

Use fraud detection technology:
Invest in software solutions that help detect unusual patterns or suspicious activity in reviews. Such tools can help identify and remove fake reviews. In addition to the corresponding features of the relevant overall solutions such as TrustPilot or Bazaarvoice, you can use specialists such as Fakespot or (in the case of Amazon) reviewmeta.

Social proof megafactor influencer

The use of influencers as social proof providers stands out due to their superior reach, credibility and expertise. Their massive follower numbers and strong connection to their community make them extremely effective social proof brokers. Through their specific expertise and professional presentation, influencers can make an even more compelling case for a product or service. Their collaboration with brands further strengthens their influence and makes them unbeatable ambassadors for the things they promote.


1. fashion influencer Caro Daur x sustainable fashion brand Armedangels:

Campaign: Caro Daur presents her favorite Armedangels outfits in several Instagram posts and stories and inspires her followers with sustainable and stylish looks.
The campaign generates enormous social reach and a positive response. Followers praise Daur's authenticity and are curious about the sustainable fashion brand thanks to her examples. Traffic to the Armedangels website increases significantly.

2. fitness Youtuber Simon “Gronkh” Groetzenbach x sports nutrition manufacturer Myprotein:

Collaboration: Gronkh tests various Myprotein products in several videos, evaluates their taste and effect and shows his followers simple training exercises.
The honest and authentic product review by Gronkh convinces many of his sports-enthusiastic followers. Myprotein's sales in the target group of fitness enthusiasts increase significantly.

3. beauty blogger Pamela Reif x cosmetics brand Maybelline:

Campaign: Pamela Reif creates a make-up look with Maybelline products in a tutorial on YouTube and enchants her followers with a natural and glamorous look.

Result: the video goes viral and generates millions of views. Followers are enthusiastic about the products and flock to drugstores to try them out for themselves. Sales of Maybelline products in the young target group explode.

These examples do not take away the decision as to whether you should work with influencers or “normal” users for social proof - it depends on various factors, including the budget, the target group and the marketing goals. For some products or services, “normal” users are better suited than influencers. Customer reviews and experiences from average users can be perceived as more authentic, as they are not being paid to promote a product or brand. “Normal” users represent a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and opinions. “Normal” users are often more open to constructive criticism and provide honest feedback on products or services. These critical reviews can provide valuable insights that ultimately help you and your company to further develop your offerings and, if necessary, your communication accordingly.

Social proof and customer journey- what fits best with awarEness, consideration, conversation and retention? 

Different types of social proof can be used effectively in different phases of the customer journey to strengthen the trust of interested parties and encourage them to convert.

1. Awareness-Phase:

This phase is about raising awareness of the brand and its products or services. Here you can rely on the following types of social proof:

  • Influencer partnerships: Work with influencers who have a wide reach and appeal to your target audience. Their recommendations or mentions can help raise awareness of your brand.
  • Customer reviews and testimonials: Share positive reviews, testimonials and testimonials from satisfied shoppers.

2. Consideration-Phase:

In this phase, visitors compare different options and decide whether your product or service is the right choice for them. Here you can rely on the following types of social proof:

  • Case studies and success stories: Present case studies and success stories that show how your offerings have helped other customers.
  • Comparison charts and review portals: Show comparisons between your product and other options in your industry.

3. Conversion-Phase:

In this phase, you want to lead customers to conversion, i.e. to a purchase or booking. Here you can rely on the following types of social proof:

  • Customer reviews and star ratings: Place customer reviews and star ratings directly on your product page or checkout page. This can convince potential customers that your product or service is worth the money.
  • Live streams or demos: Offer live streams or demos where customers can see your product in action.

4. Retention-Phase:

This phase is about retaining existing customers and encouraging them to buy from you repeatedly. Here you can rely on the following types of social proof:

  • Customer reviews and repeat purchases: show customer reviews and testimonials from returning customers to demonstrate that your offerings lead to long-term customer satisfaction.
  • Reward programs and referral promotions: Offer rewards or discounts for customers who recommend your services.

Conclusion: Social proof in e-commerce - trust and conversations through customers- and sometimes influencers 

Experts believe that social proof plays a central role in e-commerce in order to create trust among customers and increase the conversion rate. Positive reviews, testimonials and social recommendations from other users act as convincing purchase arguments and reduce the uncertainty that can be associated with online purchases.

Regular customers and influencers can both be used effectively as social proof providers, but are well suited to different situations.


  • Authenticity and credibility: Customers are more likely to trust the opinions of other customers than advertising messages.
  • Diversity of opinions: A variety of reviews provides a more comprehensive picture of you and your offering.
  • Specific target group approach: Users at eye level can specifically address the target group you are interested in - differently and sometimes more convincingly than you can as an entrepreneur.


  • Solicit customer reviews: Encourage buyers to share their experiences with your products or services. Offer incentives such as discounts or vouchers.
  • Publish customer reviews: Place customer reviews, testimonials and testimonials on your website, blog and social media channels.
  • Use social proof in your marketing materials: Integrate customer testimonials into your emails, newsletters and advertisements.
  • Actively encourage customers to share their experiences: Use social media to encourage your customers to leave reviews and share their experiences. 
  • Think about involving influencers but don't overdo it. Compared to purely private individuals, you have the advantage of reach and the possible disadvantage of less authenticity.
  • Pay attention to the authenticity of customer references: make sure that all reviews are genuine and unbiased.

As our considerations and examples hopefully underline, social proof is a powerful tool that can help you build trust with customers and increase your conversion rate. By engaging 'normal' users and presenting their experiences in an authentic and credible way, you can boost the power of your marketing and increase your e-commerce success.