5 Ways to Use Social Proof and UGC to Improve eCommerce Customer Retention

By Courtney O'Riordan • Last updated: Wednesday Apr 24th, 2024

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Traditionally, consumers have made purchases based on word of mouth recommendations from friends and family.

Nowadays, word of mouth recommendations are digitised.

Consumers seek equally trustworthy recommendations from strangers on the internet in the form of social proof and user-generated content.

And it’s not only first-time shoppers who look to these types of content when considering a purchase, returning customers can also be influenced by your community of brand advocates.

Although it will always remain important to attract new customers, it is becoming more profitable to ensure your existing customers are returning.

Below we’ll discuss how you can increase your customer retention rates by using social proof and UGC to improve your visibility and reputation amongst your audience.

What are social proof and user-generated content?

With 84% of consumers no longer trusting traditional adverts, brands need a way to influence consumer behaviour authentically.

A need that social proof and UGC fulfil.

Social proof is the name given to the psychological and social phenomenon in which people imitate others when they are unsure of what to do.

Let’s put that in an eCommerce context.

Imagine that you’re looking to buy a new camera online. You come across one that has many positive reviews from satisfied customers. You’ll naturally be influenced by social proof to purchase that specific camera.

UGC can also achieve this outcome.

User-generated content is the name given to images, videos and text uploaded to social media platforms.

In the same way that positive reviews can influence a purchase, real-life images of customers using a product can persuade hesitant shoppers to place an order.

The more organic proof you have that customers are using and loving your brand, the more trust you build amongst your community of customers.

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How to use social proof and UGC to increase customer retention

Having a customer base that is more empowered than ever before makes retaining them a difficult task.

We know that social proof and UGC can help to increase conversion rates, but how can they ensure existing customers are returning to your site?

Let’s take a look at how they accomplish this.

Related: Use social proof to Increase eCommerce Conversions

1. Reinforce trust in your brand

As briefly mentioned, building trust is difficult with an audience that is less loyal to brands.

Reinforce the confidence you built up to secure an initial purchase with up to date social proof on your site and other channels in the form of reviews or star ratings.

Customer reviews come from a relatively unbiased source, making it unsurprising that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal ones.

Strengthening your image in the eyes of existing customers with exposure to positive feedback will encourage them to return and try out your other products.

If you have a product worthy of a positive review, you have a brand worthy of staying loyal to.

Remember to also encourage reviews in the post-purchase experience. This will ensure you are creating an accurate conversation about your product that will instil trust in customers.

2. Create consumer advocates

If you’re ignoring social media marketing as a means to retain customers, you are missing a trick.

Leveraging your existing customers by using their UGC on your socials and site reinforces their importance to you and gives your brand authenticity.

Unfortunately, no matter how much customers love your product, they may not always be forthcoming in creating content off their own backs.

Competitions, reshares and giveaways are great incentives to combat this.

Increasing engagement in this way deepens the relationship between you and your customer.

As you connect with your customer, they’ll build an emotional bond with your brand that will increase their buy-in and your chances of retaining them as a customer.

3. Referral schemes

Combine your customer retention and acquisition efforts by introducing referral schemes to your strategy.

Offering, for example, “10% off for both you and a friend when you refer them” can encourage existing customers to make additional purchases with their discount code.

Not only does it help you retain existing customers but it also provides the social proof needed to attract new customers.

4. Influencer marketing

If your bank of UGC is drying up or not performing how you hoped it would, consider influencer marketing.

After all, 90% of marketers believe influencer marketing to be effective.

Although you may be paying or providing a product for free in return for a feature on a social media star’s feed, the return on investment can be high.

Take Daniel Wellington or Lululemon for example.

Thanks to adopting this marketing strategy they have a consistent stream of influencers advocating for their brand.

Cherry-picking influencers relevant to your brand means posts will reach your audience of potential and existing customers whilst coming across as relatable and organic.

Repeat exposure to your brand will remind them why they bought from you in the first place, thus encouraging them to return.

5. Add credibility to your voice

When navigating through the age of cynicism, it can be difficult for your customers to believe what you claim.

Stay ahead of the cynics by employing an extremely powerful tool, expert endorsements.

Gather expert social proof from industry leaders or influencers in the form of blog posts, quotes or photographs.

Having trusted sources back up your claims and add credibility to your voice which will help you to retain customers.

Similarly, communicating any accreditations or accolades to your existing customers creates the impression that your brand is to be trusted.


Reinforcing brand values and consumer confidence from the time a visitor is browsing your site to receiving an email post-purchase will help to increase the lifecycle of your customers.

Leveraging social proof and UGC is not only valuable in your acquisition strategy but also in your retention strategy.

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