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The impact of social proof on online retail purchase

By Susanne Colwyn 19 May, 2014

Research shows purchase uplift from social sharing and reviews

What is the value of social sharing online? How does it impact sales? Can I charge more if my product has a highly perceived value?  Sharethis and Paley Centre for Media conducted a research stud research sharing behaviour amongst 6,000 consumers, that helps answer these questions. It's a piece of companion research to the infographic we shared recently, asking what prompts online sales? It gives more evidence of the impact of social proof where social sharing and reviews of products or of a brand as a whole give reassurance to purchasers about buying a product or service. This new research shows that the impact of social proof on retail buys is significant, it concludes that:

'Content sharing can influence consumers more than price and brand, and motivate people to spend 9.5% more', according to the research.'

In this research consumers were surveyed, who purchase in three categories: automotive, technology and consumer packaged goods. Here is a glimpse into the Survey. The Return on A Share report can be downloaded from their website.

Key research takeways

  • On-line sharing of content impacts consumer spend across the industries, and the survey measured the 'value of worth' by strength and price levels.  It was prominent in the findings that 'online sharing beat general consumer reviews and ratings across the board' as shown by this chart showing the impact on purchase of an excellent level of social shares.

sharethismomentsurvey value of share

  • Positive recommendations can enable companies to charge higher prices. Recommendations from a friend, close family for a store brand and online shares are valued highly and create a greater 'perceived value' by different recommendations. An online share is perceived as the same value as in-person recommendation.

in person recommendations      profreviews

What does effective social proof look like in practice on a retail site? We like the approach of which features both reviews from Facebook, total Facebook fans and reviews for the product. See my interview with Matt Lawson of for more background on their approach to CRO and this article on the impact of video reviews on conversion.


By Susanne Colwyn

Susanne is a Marketing Consultant and Trainer, with over 20 years marketing experience in the public and private sector. She's passionate about supporting companies with practical result driven marketing, to help focus companies on evaluating and driving their marketing forward. Experienced in Integrated Strategic Marketing Planning, Data Segmentation, Customer Relationship Management Systems, Customer Insight and reviewing internal systems, data and processes, to maximise conversion strategies and the customer experience. You can connect with her via her LinkedIn or follow her @Qtymarketing.

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