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When Social Proof Works And When It Doesn’t

Social Proof is one of our Top 20 CRO recommendations. It can help increase your conversion rate almost instantly.

Hundreds of reviews indicate a bustling business, and a bustling business with a large client base serves as social proof that you’re legitimate, credible and popular.

Therefore it stands to reason that social proof in all cases will increase your conversion rate, right? Well, that’s what we thought, too. In this article, we’re going to show you how that’s not always the case and, yet again, why testing is so important.

When Social Proof Works

So we don’t sound like a broken record, and to boost our engagement stats (always be analysing), you can read our full case study here featuring a client who implemented social proof to boost their conversion rate.

But as a summary:

We planned and built a new marketing landing page for our client, PorterVac, split-testing the following:

  • Google Reviews Badge,
  • Reviews x 2,
  • Associations &
  • No. of Happy Customers

CONTROL

THE CHAMPION

The client saw a 33% increase in conversion rate. These three variations of social proof confirmed our heavy biases that social proof is always a winner, and we won’t hear otherwise.

But what if it isn’t always a winner?
Can social proof ever decrease your conversion rate?

Yep. And here’s how it did – twice.

When Social Proof Doesn’t Work

Case Study 1:

We planned and launched a new marketing landing page for our client, Australian Fitness Academy. As part of their ongoing marketing campaign, we run content tests regularly to ensure incremental conversion rate growth and a healthy ROI for the client.

Negative result

Positive result

You might assume, as we did, that more visible social proof (reviews), would generate a higher conversion rate. It did not.

The version on the right was the winner. And, a helpful reminder – that bigger is not always better.

Case Study 2:

While running another landing page campaign test for PorterVac (the same client we mentioned at the top☝️) we analysed the data and realised something interesting…

Different verticals within the same business require unique targeting to accommodate their different price points, target audiences and sales cycles. For clarity, this client offers roof restorations and gutter cleaning services. Where the former has a higher price point and a one-off service, the latter has a lower price point and repeat customers.

Roof Restoration (high price point)

Gutter cleaning (lower price point)

In the screenshots above you can see the personalisation provided for the specific service the customer is interested in.

A relevant image was selected for the service and the social proof (in the form of reviews) were framed around the image. They stand out and are there to boost conversion rate.

The result:

Negative
-58% change in conversion rate

Positive
+33% increase in conversion rate

In this case, this form of social proof did not benefit the conversion rate while targeting customers for roof restoration services.

Note: that isn’t to say that social proof won’t work – full stop. Just that, in this case, this customer does not react positively to this messaging.

We still encourage our clients to opt for social proof when possible, but we did want to highlight that there are cases where it hasn’t always worked for the better. It’s why it’s so important to split test because even small changes can have a significant impact (whether positive or negative.)

In our digital marketing agency, we use quantitative and qualitative data to influence our tests, and we analyse the results.

For example, our takeaway from this one was – roof restorations have a high price point, and given the negative results in this test, we hypothesised that these prospects require a more refined approach when presenting social proof – proof that instils trust at a more professional level. In contrast, the gutter-cleaning customers, with a lower price point, were quite happy to read a couple of reviews and outsource their decision-making from the comments they read.

In our case study for AFA, we can make all sorts of assumptions about why the more subtle social proof led to a higher CR than the more visible one. The key here was to use second-level thinking in order not to discount social proof for this page altogether but rather to find a delicate balance of page elements that would resonate more strongly with the audience.

It’s crucial when utilising A/B testing software to look beyond face value. Many marketers may discontinue a variant based on results; however, it takes that second-level thinking to question the tool and the test to be sure that you’re not viewing a ‘mirage result’ that is skewing the data.

design choices on a website decreasing conversion rates

Conversion rates are a moveable feast – what works for one product/service might not work for another. Just like, what works for one client won’t work for another. If you would like help, advice, or guidance on your conversion rate and social proof, our digital marketing experts are happy to help. And why not sign up for a complimentary 45-minute strategy session – obligation-free?

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