updated 4/30/2014 10:48:25 AM ET 2014-04-30T14:48:25

When Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart in 1938, shoppers were extremely reluctant to use his new invention.  So Goldman decided to pay people to push his shopping cart around in stores for 2 years.

After implementing this simple social-proof strategy, his invention finally caught on. (When he passed away in 1984, he was worth $400 million). Fast forward to the 21st century and these tactics are still in place.   

Social proof is that nudge that helps people decide what they should do -- especially when they’re unsure. (It invokes the "If others are doing it, I should be too" mentality)

Listed as one of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s famous six principles of persuasion, social proof continues to be one of the most powerful methods for retailers to convince shoppers to purchase their products and services.

For instance, when online shoppers aren’t sure if they should buy those shoes on a website seeing that other people have makes them feel like they’re making a good choice.

Social proof is so potent that consulting firm McKinsey & Company states that 50 percent of buying decisions are driven by word-of-mouth and testimonials.  And digital-research company Econsultancy reports that purchases increase by 55  percent  when products have high ratings.

Related: How This Startup Is Disrupting Social E-Commerce

The reason being is shopping online can be a very isolated experience.  It lacks interaction with other shoppers and it’s nearly impossible to know what other visitors are doing on a site.  (It’s hard to tell if there are any other visitors shopping on the site at all.)

For ecommerce entrepreneurs looking to implement this social-proof concept into their shopping experience (with the hopes of gaining more customers and sales), there is an easy tool to help you.

Userstats has created a technology that displays the visitor activity occurring on your website so visitors can see what other people are doing on your site. This new form of social proof is accomplished by providing a display box that shows visitors that there are other people on your site.  It ultimately gives the sense of a bustling store or restaurant.

Related: Where E-Commerce Is Booming. Hint: Think Outside the U.S. (Infographic)

The tool can be customized to allow online retailers the ability to display only the stats they wish their visitors to see.  Visitors are able to see the latest number of downloads, subscription sign ups, bookings and purchases.  They can also see the number of other visitors that are viewing the page they are on. (Below is an example)

Quite a few businesses have seen its success in lifting their website conversion rates.

A conversion lift was also achieved when BzzyBids added the tool, which resulted in a sign up increase of 18.6 percent.

Keep in mind, the number of websites available that visitors can choose to shop from continues to grow rapidly.  Visitors are regularly asking themselves “Why should I choose this product?” or “Why should I choose this website?”

To capture the market share, retailers must constantly step up their game to help answer the question as to why consumers should choose them.

Without any social cues in place as to what other people are doing on your site – visitors are pretty much left in the dark.

Adding this type of social proof turns an isolated shopping experience into one that let’s visitors feel like they are part of the crowd.

As Sylvan Goldman once proved, sometimes it’s just a matter of taking that step of adding a unique social-proof strategy to help convince consumers that your product or service is the right choice.

Related: Are Retailers Missing Out on Mobile?


Copyright © 2013, Inc.


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