Reviews and other types of online information hold more sway than ever on consumer purchasing decisions, according to Cone’s 2011 survey of over 1,000 US adults. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways.
Blog posts and consumer reviews gain most ground
Before pulling the trigger on buying decisions, most consumers polled use the Web to “research product/service information” (69%), “search for consumer or user reviews” (64%) and/or “search for the product/service on ratings websites” (50%). And while only 42% of consumers “read articles or blog posts about the product/service,” this category saw the biggest uptick in responses with a gain of 14% over last year. The second-biggest uptick was in the “search for consumer or user reviews” category, which saw a 9% climb from 55% to 64%.
Social and interest graph proximity matters less than expertise
Who do we trust online when choosing what to purchase? It’s most important to those polled that they get information from someone with actual experience with a product or service (69%), and that this person has relevant niche expertise (60%). Far fewer respondents care whether someone “is quoted often by other experts” (20%). Fewer still trust someone more if they’re close on the social or interest graph (11%), or have a social presence on many channels (11%) with many followers (8%).
Influence of negative information is growing
When asked whether reading “positive information” online had “reinforced” purchase decisions of products that had been recommended to them, 87% of respondents said yes, a seven-point jump from 2010 numbers.
Interestingly, when asked the inverse question—whether they have been deterred from a purchase by “negative information” they read about products that had been recommended to them—80% said yes, a 12% jump from 2010 numbers.
So, positive information is likelier to promote purchasing than negative information is to deter it, but the influence of the negative is growing.
“Real-life” recommendations are not enough anymore
Even for low-cost purchases like restaurant meals and movies, the majority of respondents (78%) still feel the need to verify recommendations made offline. Curiously, this number was one of the few that moved in the opposite direction, as 82% of those polled gave this answer last year. Consumers feel that both moderate- (e.g., computers) and high-cost buys (e.g., cars) deserve the same amount of post-recommendation online scrutiny, with 89% of respondents indicating its importance in informing those decisions.
When online info is most valuable
Respondents are most satisfied with the online information they find when researching electronics and household appliances (60% find useful), automotive- and transit-related info (55% find useful) and telecommunications (54% find useful). It seems that online information is considered useful for these purchases because of the fact that they’re fairly complex in nature and typically more expensive; we don’t risk as much when we aren’t carefully looking into some of the other categories with which we have a deeper understanding, like footwear and apparel, entertainment and health and beauty.