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