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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Social validation and E-Commerce

I was browsing through the Books section of an Indian E-Commerce website, looking for a best seller or a book from a known author. Needless to say, there were many options and I was confused. So rather than looking at the story line and finding about the author, I started looking at what others wrote about the book, how many ratings it had and the average book ratings. Sounds familiar?

"When we are uncertain about what to do we will look to other people to guide us. And we do this automatically and unconsciously." says Professor Robert Chialdini.

It is a very common psychological phenomemon and it is called 'Social Validation'. More precisely, the social validation stems from the Bystander effect or Genovese syndrome, a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present.

Why do we ignore? Put simply, it’s a matter of trying to fit in with the crowd. If everybody else is just watching and not doing anything, therefore, I should act like them to fit in with the social norm.

Only 5 to 10 percent of the population engages in behavior contrary to the social norm. Because we want to fit into these groups and maintain our membership with them, we conform our actions to the norm.

The bystander effect is a great way to show the power of social validation. We tend to do what we think is best to fit in with the crowd, regardless of the situation.
Another common place reasoning that suppors Social Validation: If everyone else is doing it, let’s just go with it too…besides, how can so many other smart, capable people be wrong?

So how does this apply to E-Commerce and online shopping? Look at the images below:

Do these images look familiar? Visual cues, textual cues and even stasticial numbers are used by online retailers to help shoppers take decision. Often times the social validation principle and the theory of scarcity (the illusion of diamond scarcity) go hand in hand. I will leave the details of which to a future blog.

In sum, social validation is a powerful phenomenon. In E Commerce, the cues works, provided each feature is implemented the right way.

You may be interested in other E-Commerce article:
Personalization and E-Retailing

1 comment:

  1. Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog. I really impressed by your blog.