Why are we so interested in what others think? On trends in social proof with Pavlina Louženská from the Trendspotting podcast
Surveys show that sharing user experiences is becoming increasingly important, with 89% of customers worldwide actively reading reviews before buying a new product. How do you become a trusted brand through the magic called social proof, start using it to your advantage and prepare for the future of user reviews?
How it actually works
Let's look at some numbers to start. Did you know that:
89% of customers worldwide read reviews before buying a new product?
half of them read at least six reviews before making a purchase?
25% of people are more likely to buy when they have the opportunity to read any reviews (even if there are a few negative ones) than when they have none at all?
38% of customers will not engage with a store/service/business at all if it doesn't have at least 4 stars?
The statistics were heard in an episode of the Trendspotting podcast dedicated to changes in customer behaviour. You can listen to the full episode (unfortunately only in Czech) here.
Why is the experience of others so important to us? Psychologist and author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Robert Cialdini says in his bestseller: „Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer.“
"Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer."
Humanity has always been used to living in packs, socialization and community are important to us. Therefore, our decisions are consciously or subconsciously influenced by the choices, opinions and actions of those around us. When making a purchasing decision, our brains take mental shortcuts that allow us to make a decision or solve a problem quickly and with the least amount of effort. To learn what is right, we look at what others are doing or have done in the past. This phenomenon has been called social proof and is a psychological and sociological phenomenon whereby consumers observe and follow the behaviour of other consumers.
How important is social proof in your own buying behaviour? How much attention do you pay to finding information and reading reviews about a product before you decide to buy it? What is the difference between the decision making of millennials and Generation Z? And how will it evolve going forward? We talked about this with Pavlina Louženská, co-author of the successful Hospodářské noviny podcast #Trendspotting.
When two people do the same thing, it's not the same thing
Businesses are now widely encouraged to work proactively with user reviews and recommendations. How much influence do they really have? It's always important to think about context. In particular, consider what type of product or service is being offered and to whom. "An older study from Google says it takes 900 interactions with a brand before a final decision to buy a car. One review doesn't make us purchase. Not even a super complimentary one." Louženská says. "At the same time, different reviews carry different weight - if my dad tells me to buy a car, it's going to have a different impact on me than if it wins a DTest magazine test or a fashion influencer mentions it highly." She adds.
"An older study from Google says it takes 900 interactions with a brand before a final decision to buy a car. One review doesn't make us purchase. Not even a super complimentary one."
The development of a range of different types of reviews allows us to draw information from more sources. This is one of the reasons why such research takes us much longer than before. The best indication of how the situation will evolve going forward is the behaviour of Generation Z, the group that sets the trends influencing the buying habits of older shoppers. Its consumer power is currently growing significantly. Is there a noticeable difference between Generation Z and others in terms of time spent searching for product reviews? According to studies, "GenZ is comparing benefits more than ever before. But I think we're all standing in the store Googling where those sneakers are cheaper, if that soup is really that good, and if that bread was made by an ethical company. The more expensive the thing is, the more carefully we choose." Louženská explains. Where Generation Z does not differ from the previous generations is the logic of choosing the type of review based on the type of product. "To think that you can sell bras the same way you sell computers is naive. With a MacBook, I'll read reviews and watch YouTube, with a bra or a limited drop of sneakers it's going to be different." She describes.
And what does Generation Z believe more than other consumers? Certainly the topic of the communities they themselves are part of is very important to them. "GenZ will believe the influencers, community or tribe they're in more than other generations." Louženská says. The narrower the target group, the more "niche" the targeting, the better. And what about the relationship with the brand? "Generation Z is fickle, brand loyalty is quite low with a few exceptions. They get more swept up in the hype. They care more about a mascara or peanut butter which is trending on TikTok right now. At the same time, they ask brands about multiple things - sustainability or how the brand treats employees. The boomers didn't ask that." She concludes.
"Generation Z is fickle, brand loyalty is quite low with a few exceptions. They get more swept up in the hype. They care more about a mascara or peanut butter which is trending on TikTok right now."
5 reasons to build social proof:
Although shopping habits are still evolving, some things remain the same. Whichever way you approach social proof, there's a lot to be gained. Why should you give your clients and customers a voice?
You will better understand their needs. Customers compare their expectations and reality in their reviews. You know - "What I ordered from Wish and what I got." So the resulting review is not only a reflection of the quality of your product or service, but also how well you target your advertising or how well you can set initial expectations. Learn from this and optimize what you need to.
You build customer loyalty by giving them a voice. Everyone likes to feel that the brand is listening to them. By providing a space for review, you're showing that you care about your customers' opinions. Those who take the time to leave an online review for your product or service are much more likely to feel a certain loyalty to you and return to you in the future.
You let your customers create your marketing for you. The best marketing is that which comes from someone independent. A recommendation from a third party carries much more weight than anything you say about your product or service yourself. They are the kind of micro-campaigns that work long after the online review has been posted. They build positive brand awareness in potential customers, which is beneficial to the company in both the short and long term.
Thanks to the feedback, you will get additional feedback. And we're back to pack behaviour. If there are already some online reviews for your product or service, it encourages other customers to leave their own feedback. In short, if others have done so, we feel more strongly that we should too. We just need to get the ball rolling.
Improve your SEO without the work. More reviews equals better search engine results page rankings, especially on popular sites like Google My Business and Yelp. Search engine algorithms pay attention to the number of reviews your business has and consider it original content. But they also take into account the quality and content of the reviews.
1 compelling reason to build it fairly:
Customers can detect fake reviews a mile away. And if they come across one, it won't be easy to regain their trust. Be fair. It'll pay off, trust us.
There are a number of reference formats and it's definitely a good idea to work with a combination of them. But always stay true and authentic. Don't download client photos from a photo bank, believe that your customers will know immediately. It's better to cut back on quality and add authenticity. What forms of references should you be familiar with?
Usually a short statement from your clients accompanied by photos, position and company name. The shorter and more concise the better. It's the best if your clients' statements coincide with your key benefits.
A very detailed story of the delivery of a specific product, solution or service to a client. A great way to convince potential new customers of your experience and knowledge to solve their needs.
The faces of the clients.
In case your service is aimed at end customers and the number of clients is important for you, you can choose a minimalistic form of refrains and show their portraits without additional content.
Logos and logotypes of your clients will be the right presentation for you, especially if you are in the B2B segment. Of course, the more well-known the brand, the stronger the social proof effect, because you are visibly in a position of a quality supplier. If you only work for smaller and lesser-known companies, putting them on the web won't have much of an impact on acquisitions.
In certain segments, such as hospitality, it is the best way to show the quality of your service. Try integrating some of the reviews on services like booking.com or trustyou.com.
Reviews that matter to you don't just have to come from your clients. The foundation of a thriving company is also quality employees. And to attract them, you should let your existing ones do the talking. Everyone wants to know who their potential future colleague is and what they think of their employer.
There is no recipe for success, but it is important to start
Looking to the future is certainly important. However, it is important to remember that brand credibility depends on factors other than building social proof or other individual factors. Today's customer needs to have the complete package. A number of things play a role in buying a product or service - how quickly I get it, whether I like it, how much it costs, etc. One review may not revolutionize your business, but it's important to get started. Even the world's biggest brands started with one review.
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