Imagine you’re on an e-commerce site, looking to buy a new pair of shoes. You’ve narrowed it down to two models – one black, the other, brown. You can’t decide which is more in fashion, is of better quality and will look right with your outfit. You glance instinctively at the product reviews section, and notice that the black pair were bought by over 500 users and received a 4.5 star rating, whereas the brown pair were bought by only 50 people and received a meagre 2 star rating. Well, there you have it, you say to yourself. I’ll be getting the black pair. This is the Bandwagon Effect at work.
Origins of the Bandwagon Effect
The phrase ‘to jump on the bandwagon’ – where the name for ‘Bandwagon Effect’ came from – originated in 19th century political campaigning efforts. Politicians would stand atop moving floats that broadcast music and displayed dancing, jovial partygoers. The idea was that constituents would be motivated to join the revelry and ‘hop on the bandwagon’ – at the same time showing pubic support for the candidate. [Linda and Charlie Bloom, “The Bandwagon Effect: Are we going to think for ourselves?” Psychology Today, August 11, 2017]
However, the idea of the Bandwagon Effect, or social proof, was popularized in the 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini. His work with his psychology students demonstrated, “our conscious and unconscious reliance on each other for cues in almost all decisions that we make.” [Jen Cardello, “Social Proof in the User Experience,” Nielsen Norman Group, October 19, 2014]
Basically, we look to our peers to determine what the ‘right’ course of action for ourselves might be.
How to use The Bandwagon Effect for Conversion Optimization
Social proof is a powerful persuasion principle for increasing conversion rates, and one that is relatively straightforward to put in place. Displaying how many products were sold, customer reviews or testimonials, how many items are left in stock…all are relatively simple ways of indicating to prospective buyers how to ‘hop on the bandwagon.’
The CRO agency Conversio, for example, was able to increase the conversion rates for one of their clients by 5%, simply by adding a line to product specs specifying the number of items already sold. Similarly, by adding a line to a fashion e-retailer’s product spec about how little stock was left (implicitly indicating its popularity), their client was able to increase conversion rates for that particular item by 8.8%.