Social Proof In ECommerce

Contextual social proof and subscriptions are the future of ecommerce

In eCommerce, every customer counts. Probably the best converting technique has been and still is social proof.Ryan Kulp

To learn more about the psychology behind it, why it works and what the future of marketing for ecommerce businesses looks like, we talked with Ryan Kulp, founder of Fomo, a social proof plugin for online stores.

Having marketing, UX, and coding experience, Ryan started Fomo to give store owners the credibility they deserve and help customers make better buying decisions because that’s how both parties win in the long run.

So here’s what we talked about.

How has social proof changed online?

“15 years ago, review sites like Yelp, Foursquare and TripAdvisor were enough to build a vendor’s credibility. Now, there’s so much noise that people do not blindly trust reviews that might as well be fake.

Consumers today are interested in what people like them – not stranger – think of the products they’re looking to buy. This is where modern social proof comes in play.

It shows the visitor what similar in demography or interests people have bought and what they think.

This makes the testimonials more relatable and thus – effective.”

Why is social proof more important now than ever?

Consumers have evolved and their behavior online has changed.

They won’t work for you

“As they’re increasingly overwhelmed, consumers cannot be expected to take the time to go to a specific site and leave a thoughtful and positive review any more.

It’s just too much to ask, especially after they just spent money with you and there’s no added gain for them, says Ryan.

You basically ask them to do free marketing for you.

They have become Internet-savvy

“At the beginning of online shopping, nobody thought of questioning testimonials on sites. It was enough to have a few good words and an avatar with a real name, and it worked,” remembers Ryan.

But as the dark side of the web began showing its teeth, consumers got more cautious. They dig around much more and have ways of sniffing out fake reviews. So that’s not helping businesses any more.

Ecommerce is booming

The more alternatives, the greater power customers have to switch vendors. Competition has made customers themselves your greatest asset, and they’ve become intellectual property in a way. So the fact that they trusted you is the reason others like them should too.

There’s more transparency

The public demands transparency from small and large companies alike. Those who don’t disclose numbers, customer base, metrics or even challenges are increasingly perceived as hiding something.

Forward-thinking companies have let customers drive their course. Some of those companies use Fomo for this purpose.

How to make customers happy (and profit from it)

Every time a customer buys something, they feel either delight (positive) or remorse (negative). So, in order to have more happy customers, you have to minimize remorse and maximize delight.

You can do two things:

  1. Find the right audience who are naturally prone to be delighted with your products. Statistically speaking, you’re increasing the chances of positive experiences – maximizing delight.
  2. Help customers make the right choice for themselves. Not every sale is equal. Sometimes it’s better to lose a sale and avoid negative feedback from a customer who’s just a bad fit for the product. That’s minimizing remorse. You don’t want them to feel regret and take your brand down with them.

Related: Minimizing order returns

In Ryan’s words, ”Sometimes the best buying decision is to not buy at all.”

So with a tool like Fomo it’s not simply about boosting conversions in any way possible, but converting the right people and guarding off the wrong ones who might do more harm than good.

What’s next for social proof marketing?

Social proof technology will become even more contextualized, Ryan is convinced.

Tools will not just say that this customer didn’t like the product, they’ll give metadata and attributes with a background story to understand why not.


For example, Sally didn’t like the shirt because it’s too colorful to wear to work.

Potential buyers can easily relate to the case or dismiss it, and make a better buying decision that they’re happy about. That’s a lot more accurate and useful than a 4.2 point rating!

What can make or break an online store?

We asked out of curiosity because Ryan and his team work with thousands of stores.

His answer: minimalism.

And not minimalism regarding product range but in talking about yourself.

Most sites look like a pep rally for the company’s team – how awesome they are and the like, rather than talking about the customer and the value he’s getting.

Minimal sites, on the other hand, have very little self-boasting and the content is skewed towards the value for their visitors.

The focus is on giving – the reviews, the high-quality pictures, the zoom-in option, the guarantees – they’re all for the customer, not for the team.

The best minimal sites are like, hey, there’s not much here, but all of it is for you, helping you make a better buying decision.

Тhe ecommerce model of the future: Subscriptions

Talking to a person like Ryan with such a unique view of the eCommerce business, we couldn’t help but ask about his expectations for the future of the industry at the end of the interview.

He puts it like this, “If you’re a band, your fans can only support you by going to a concert in their area and buying your albums. That’s so little. In the same way, your customers might want to support you, but you need to give them more ways to do it.”

In eCommerce, that often manifests itself as a subscription model. It’s a win-win solution because you get recurring revenue and your supporters get to stay connected on a more frequent basis. There are companies that can assist in subscription box fulfilment.

Related: How to get the benefits of subscriptions without actually offering one

It’s true that it may not work 100% for every company, but it doesn’t have to be a box of the product shipped out every month. Ryan suggests paid communities (a chat channel even) and the like to keep fans close.

The ultimate goal is to increase Customer lifetime value (CLTV).

We thank Ryan for this fresh perspective on the psychology of selling. More interviews with experts in the various aspects of eCommerce are coming so stay tuned.

You can read more about the Fomo plugin in our Top plugins to boost sales in 2017 article.


About the author

With experience in FMCG and marketing, Dimira writes to help the brands of tomorrow succeed and believes passion is a key ingredient in any business.

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