Heuristics Series Part 5: Social Bias

Our heuristics blog series continues, with a focus on social bias - and how compelling marketing strategies can tap into the psychology of the 'bandwagon effect' to drive sales and shape trends.

We started this series last year on the mental shortcuts that help simplify decision-making, and how they can be used to understand and influence shopper behaviour. So far we’ve covered 
complementarity,  value perception and relevancy - all powerful purchase motivators.

Social Bias

Social bias is often known as the ‘bandwagon effect’ or ‘herd mentality’, both of which refer to the tendency of consumers to mirror the actions or beliefs of others. This can be due to a desire to ‘fit in’ and be part of a community, but it also helps speed up our decision making when we trust the opinions and choices of others.

A well-known Nielsen survey found that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above other forms of advertising, and that 70% trust online customer reviews - so word of mouth can be very powerful indeed.

Social bias also triggers FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) - where we might see products trending and ask ourselves “What’s that and why do people have it? And why don’t I have it?”.


Big brand examples of this phenomenon include Apple’s iconic white earbuds in the eye-catching silhouette ad campaigns. The campaign tapped into the emotions of young, tech-savvy consumers who wanted to look and feel this good, and be seen as 'cool' by their peers.


There are numerous ways that marketers can harness these feelings to motivate consumers to jump on the bandwagon before it leaves without them, such as:

  • Endorsements from influencers, celebrities or satisfied customers 
  • Social proof in the form of customer reviews and ratings
  • Real-time information on the number of items bought, booked or viewed to date
  • Showcase items in high demand, to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity

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eCommerce marketers can leverage these strategies on their websites in a number of ways, such as: 

  • Using overlays that push shoppers to popular pages, best sellers or flash sales
  • Incorporate real-time sales/views or customer ratings within basket contents overlays or email retargeting campaigns
  • Target regional shoppers with products currently popular in their area - and use localised testimonials or ratings to build credibility
  • Collect, disclose and amplify reviews & testimonials
  • Use referral programs
Marketers must take an omni-channel approach to these strategies, as social media platforms and the rise of influencers amplify the bandwagon effect like never before. Authenticity is another consideration, so displaying a range of reviews could build trust and help consumers discern what's truly best for them.

The bandwagon effect is clearly a powerful purchase motivator, and compelling marketing strategies can tap into this psychology to drive sales and shape trends.

Our next blog in this heuristics series will focus on price anchoring. If you missed the previous blogs, we've covered  scarcity, complementarityvalue perception and relevancy so far.

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