The Power and Importance of User Reviews

Thanks to Gary Price (again!) for pointing me to Bob Tedeschi’s Monday NY Times column (reg req’d) this week was about user reviews and two new services that syndicate reviews: Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews. Here’s MediaPost’s earlier write-up of Bazaarvoice.

Noteworthy in the NY Times’ article was the finding of the importance of consumer recommendations amid the on and offline ad clutter:

[A]ccording to a survey by Forrester Research, a technology consulting firm, 6 percent of customers say they believe marketers’ advertising claims, and 62 percent say they feel there are too many ads in the media. Forrester also found that fewer than 10 percent of consumers said that television ads influenced their purchase decisions, while more than half said that the recommendations of friends and family changed their purchase plans.

But another finding from a recent Jupiter survey offers a seemingly contradictory result (via iMedia):

The report finds that nearly one in five marketers will use online viral marketing tactics in the next year while only 21 percent of consumers trust product information within such social media when mulling a product purchase.

What these two apparently contradictory results show is that research findings partly depend on how questions are phrased. (I have seen neither survey instrument.) But another inference that I will draw to explain the discrepancy is that the credibility of the site and context in which user reviews or user-generated content appears matters — the totality of the experience counts. In other words, user reviews on Yahoo! Local or InsiderPages may carry considerably more weight than similar content on a blog I don’t know or anonymousconsumerdestination.com.

Another “meta-conclusion” to draw is that the impact of any single ad medium is waning. And consumers are and will continue to use more sources to discover and confirm their purchase decisions. (This is a consistent finding of Yahoo!’s recent research.) Unbiased opinions thus have more weight.

All this, from a marketer’s perspective, means advertisers need broader coverage across multiple media; and they’ll increasingly need to be prepared to face very public consumer opinion online.

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Related: Here’s my earlier post on consumer reviews in a local context.

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8 Responses to “The Power and Importance of User Reviews”

  1. The Growing Power of Online Reviews » SEO by the SEA Says:

    […] The New York Times also covered online recommendations and reviews on Monday in Help for the Merchant in Navigating a Sea of Shopper Opinions registration required (via Greg Sterling ) […]

  2. ‘Social Shopping’: Novelty or the Next Wave? « Screenwerk Says:

    […] First and foremost community is valuable in providing reviews and ratings. That’s now ubiquitous in online shopping and has spawned a cottage industry: product review syndicators. There’s also a valuable “discovery” element (e.g., Kaboodle and Yahoo!’s Shopophere), where people compile “pick lists” or “wish lists” or recommendations that help you as a consumer discover ideas or products that you wouldn’t have found on your own. (A great example of community [and much more valuable than in shopping] is Yahoo!’s Trip Planner.) […]

  3. User Reviews and Small Businesses » Small Business SEM Says:

    […] Greg Sterling has done some writing recently on the impact of user reviews, and I’d recommend you read The Power and Importance of User Reviews, which references a recent NY Times article on user reviews, and also provides some additional statistics both for and against the value of reviews. […]

  4. Kevin Ryan on the Importance of UGC « Screenwerk Says:

    […] The inimitable Kevin Ryan writes about the importance of user-generated content, ratings and reviews. I obviously agree that this is now critical stuff for publishers in helping consumers make buying decisions. […]

  5. Je eigen webwinkel & de kracht van product reviews Says:

    […] zoals Greg Sterling ook aangeeft in zijn artikel over the power of user reviews is de plaats waar die reviews voorkomen. Als die op een site staan die een behoorlijk hoge […]

  6. Local SEO Hero: An Interview With David Mihm | Search Engine Optimization Says:

    […] these great articles about the power of user reviews: two by search industry pros Matt McGee and Greg Sterling, and one terrific run-down in the San Francisco […]

  7. SEO Master » Blog Archive » Local SEO Hero: An Interview With David Mihm Says:

    […] these great articles about the power of user reviews: two by search industry pros Matt McGee and Greg Sterling, and one terrific run-down in the San Francisco […]

  8. Local SEO Hero: An Interview With David Mihm | Social Web Tips Says:

    […] these great articles about the power of user reviews: two by search industry pros Matt McGee and Greg Sterling, and one terrific run-down in the San Francisco […]

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