There have been lots of studies documenting that consumers look at and care about online reviews in making buying decisions. The latest (released last week) comes from Opinion Research Corporation:
The survey revealed 84 percent of Americans say online customer evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service, but only 28 percent of respondents say they have posted their own feedback on the web. These facts are nearly identical to those published in 2008 . . .
Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents, virtually identical to the proportion in 2008, checked some type of online review forum when looking to purchase a particular brand of product or service. Interestingly, a sizable number of respondents (50 percent) relied on online reviews in the first stage of their buying cycle.
As the quote in the press release asserts, a minority of review writers are having a significant potential influence on buyers (whether online or offline). The Internet is being used even more intensively by cost conscious consumers to find the best products and services at the best prices:
Source: Opinion Research Corp.
Increased online activity in the food category probably relates the various e coli and other food safety scares in the past several months.
What’s the takeaway here? Businesses of any size must work with this population of influencers to manage their reputations online. If they can do that successfully (on social media and review sites) those efforts will likely pay off with the larger population. What I’m describing is challenging and may be more so for time-starved SMBs. But SMBs might also be in a better position in some respects to “work” social media sites to their advantage than large, slow-moving companies that resist engaging with customers.
Thanks to Seb and Christer for pointing out this data via Twitter.