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Ultimate E-Commerce Guide: Chapter Two

Using Social Proof & Trust Icons

Number 2 in our Ultimate E-commerce guide is the use of social proof and trust icons to increase your conversions.

In this chapter we’ll be covering the below including various tips and tricks, but most importantly, how and why they work.

  1. Testimonials
  2. Ratings & Reviews
  3. Cross-selling using sales to previous customers
  4. Accreditations & Logos
  5. Media Mentions
  6. Social following
  7. Social likes
  8. Subscriber counts
  9. Peers

Once you know the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to get creative and really make these changes work to your advantage.

The great thing about using social proof on your e-commerce website is - the more your company grows, the easier this is to implement.

An introduction to Social Proof and Trust Icons

You may not think sitting in front of a device purchasing something from a website can cause anxiety, but remember, not everyone is like you.

Giving up personal information, allowing people to contact us and using credit cards online are all associated with fears.

I’m not talking about the kind of fear where people cower behind the sofa nudging their laptop from a distance with a pointy stick.

I’m talking about those niggling feelings you get when you feel something just isn’t right.

Try these on for size:

Will I be the victim of identity theft? Will my bank account be hacked and my money taken? How is my information going to be used? Who will have access to my information? Will I be spammed? Will I get what I ordered? What happens if my product doesn’t arrive? Can I talk to a ‘real’ person if something goes wrong? Will I be able to return the item if it’s damaged? Will I get unexpected charges?

Anything you can do to reduce anxiety will help increase sales on your e-commerce website.

How? Here’s the clever bit.

Although we may want to feel we don’t care what others think, we’re internally wired that way.

We determine what we think is correct, by deciding what we think other people think is right; this is particularly true in unfamiliar circumstances.  

We like people better and are more likely to agree to and be influenced by them when they:

Successful salesmen use these tricks by trying to find common ground with potential customers as quickly as possible and mirror similarities in an effort to be more liked, and as a result, gain your trust and make a sale.

Your e-commerce website has to be that salesman. It must have the right design and content to relate to your target your audience, and to speak their language.

So to maximise the effect of social proof we need:

So how can we show this on your website?

Ways to add social proof to your e-commerce website to increase conversions


Testimonials are objective. Someone outside of your business, outside of a pay cheque, is singing your praises; this adds a lot of weight and credibility to your brand.

If you’re not already collecting testimonials, you need to.

Add them to pages that will be seen often, for example the home page. Don’t create a page specifically for testimonials; despite how valuable they are no one will actively look for them.

A testimonial from someone about your ‘exceptional service and friendly approach’ can help a visitor who may not have heard of you before to make a purchase.

Real attributions, photos, locations, dates or video testimonials can increase the benefits and give greater credibility. Providing details about the customer giving the testimonial will also help towards attracting similar customers.

client testimonial

Testimonials from experts or influencers in your field of expertise are the jackpot you should be aiming for.

Andy Crestodina from Unbounce is a strong believer: “The more relevant and influential the endorser, the more powerful the social proof… If your business has ever received a compliment from a well-known person who is respected by your audience, go find it, and add it to your homepage”.

Ratings & Reviews

Although similar to testimonials, ratings and reviews are very different.

Testimonials shine a big glowing light on your business.

Ratings and reviews are targeted at your products.

Customer reviews are very powerful, how many times have you glanced at the star rating or the reviews, you know, just to be sure?

Check-a-Trade has built a very successful business on this basis. Every page is a mass of reviews. That’s it, the whole site: reviews.

Lingerie giant Figleaves (through Bazaar Voice) ran an experiment to find out how much of an effect reviews had on product sales. They found:

Red areas highlight customer reviews on a Figleaves product page (chosen at random):  


Customers who do not know much about the product are more likely to follow the opinion of others.

If this is the case, what happens when your reviews aren’t favourable?

Don’t be afraid of negative reviews.

Do take them on board and find a way of bettering your service or product, but don’t be afraid of them.

Brands with ‘polite’ but negative reviews can actually be perceived as being more wholesome than one without any complaints.

A study by BrightLocal found that 30% of customers will “trust a customer review just as much as a personal recommendation if they believe it to be authentic”.

Having the odd bad review can add to the authenticity of your reviews, making the good reviews carry more weight in the customers mind.

As customers are unable to try out a product before they buy, reviews from previous customers are the closest comparison they have. So these results from another BrightLocal survey shouldn’t be too surprising, they revealed:


Ways you can display your reviews:

Cross-selling using sales to previous customers

“People who bought this also bought”

I'm am always drawn to this area, more often than not those people had awesome taste or very similar interests and a few more items were added to my basket.

In some cases I’ve even swapped something which was in my basket to something someone else bought. Mainly because it was better and in my laziness I hadn’t scrolled through all of the options.

Adding reviews to these items suddenly opens up a whole new world of conversions.

Already I relate to these people, they like what I like; they’ve bought what I want to buy. If these people are now raving about how great it is I don’t just want one I want five.

Ok, so I don’t want five, but you get the picture.


As I’ve said, a website visitor who don’t know much about a product and aren’t sure which one to buy is likely to rely on the opinion of others.

First-time buyers on your site in particular usually feel more comfortable buying something that most people have bought.

And again, adding customer ratings and reviews alongside this will definitely boost your conversions!

Accreditations & Logos

This form of trust icon goes by many different names: badges, seals, certifications, accreditations. This is a popular approach to establishing credibility.

Industry accreditations or memberships into appropriate organisations can make a user feel like you are more of a ‘real’ company.

Logos such as PayPal, MasterCard and Visa surprisingly can have the same effect. Does your e-commerce website support a charity? Great, stick the logo on the site.

If a user recognises a popular household name logo, they’re more likely to trust your website.

Media Mentions

Similar to testimonials media mentions, or ‘as seen on’ media showcase are another big hit. Manufacturers often cite or show the news media that has featured, mentioned or reviewed their products. A mention of your business in the media alongside the company’s logo is a very credible trust icon. After all, a magazine industry giant or national TV programme isn’t going to endorse a company they wouldn’t have 100% faith in.

If we have faith in them, and they have faith in you, by proxy, the faith is passed on to you.

Social following

“Bought by X amount of people”

Similar to best sellers, this follows our second rule to the letter, to really build trust on our e-commerce site we need “as many people acting the same way as possible”.

By showing 50 people have bought this item, we’re showing 50 people have put their faith in this website and believe this item to be the best item for their money.

Telling people how many customers you’ve served so far is possibly the simplest form of social proof.

Social Likes

If you’re aiming for bonus points, “for those people to be like our target audience”, then there’s a clever Facebook widget which will show the faces of people who have liked this item also. If the visitors’ friends are included, this will show their names and faces.

How could you be more trustworthy than that?

Subscriber Counts

Growing a list of customers who want to hear from you is one of the most important marketing strategies you can do. This group of people are actively saying they want to hear from you, they want you to market to them, they want your emails.

They couldn’t be a better prospect if they were jumping up and down screaming at you to take their money.

Now I could go into a massive rant about how brilliant systems like MailChimp are but there just isn’t enough time in the day, so here’s a quick rundown of what you need to do.

  1. Get a MailChimp account, or similar
  2. Make a sexy template that’s branded and on key
  3. Send emails of latest products, latest trends, latest offers
  4. Always use the customer’s name in the email – either the subject title or in the email, or both. Why not. Using someone’s name always converts better – that’s marketing 101. 
  5. Analyse how these customers are reacting to these use Google Analytics and the reporting tool in MailChimp. Use this information to hone your emails.

Once you’ve sent the email, a chimp will high five you for your good work, I mean why not? You’ve earned it. Double click the hand, and as if by magic an ‘old skool’ pixelated game will appear. Who doesn’t love a secret Easter egg?

Right, back to the task at hand.

You’re cultivating a fine email list and need more subscribers to mail to.

Gaining subscribers follows the same game as social likes; people feel comfortable joining the crowd.

Ways to work this to your benefit:

Obviously if 20,000 are keen it must be good right?

Here’s a technique Gaurav Madaan uses, obviously all for the price of an email address.



We’ve touched on this previously above, but it’s very valuable so it’s also got its own section.

Your friends have tried/visited this

Its common sense that people will trust recommendations from people they know more than strangers.

TripAdvisor has used this to their benefit. When customers log in to their Facebook account, TripAdvisor displays the locations friends have been to and which they recommend.

Reading friends reviews makes it easier first time visitors to make a decision.

Your friends have liked/shared this

While there probably isn’t many conversions hiding in ‘likes’ it does show that your page is popular among a visitor’s friends and strangers.

If other people like it, it must be good. Shame this doesn’t work for everything. Marmite, anyone?

However seeing friends like your e-commerce website may be the social proof needed to persuade a first time visitor to make a purchase.

Use as many of these principles as possible

One of the best things about social proof is that you can use multiple sources to amplify your brand’s perceived popularity and credibility. As your e-commerce website grows and you get more customers, the easier social proof becomes.

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