Today's Adweek has a fascinating story called "Shoppers Want More Customer Reviews" that offers statistical evidence for something I've been noting anecdotally.
What's particularly interesting is that the reviews in question are for things like toys and smaller consumer goods items-- not just the high ticket items (cars, electronics) that gave consumer reviews their initial boosts.
Consumers will go into the store, select a few items they are interested in, and then turn to review sites for their final decision. This means that advertising can do nothing more than get the product into the consideration set (possibly-- we have no idea how much influence the in-store experience and packaging have vis-a-vis advertising). And that's very important because it completely changes the nature of advertising from a purchase-oriented communication to a consideration-set oriented communication.
And places the onus back on the manufacturer to make a product that people actually want to buy. Which is one of the key components of The Real Digital Revolution
Here's a relevant snippet for those disinclined to follow the link:
In other survey findings, many people said they shop seamlessly back and forth between physical stores and Web sites, and they do not examine customer reviews until midway through the shopping process. Most of the respondents said they start their shopping process at retail stores and then seek out online reviews as they near their final choices, looking at the reviews of only a handful of possible purchases. Specifically, 81 percent use customer reviews to decide between two or three products or to confirm that their final selection is the right one and only 40 percent actually start the shopping process using reviews, according to the study.
If it is all about getting into the consideration set as far as an advertising goal is concerned, do promotions, which claim to help differentiate and drive decision-making at shelf, remain effective?
Do they become more effective?
Full-service agencies might look considerably more different than ever imagined...
I think promotions will help when two products are fairly closely rated/priced. So that if I can get one for 20% less without any noticeable decrease in quality, then that is going to be a factor.
But if ultimately consumers are going online to judge the quality of products, to learn which ones are actually the best, then promotions are of no greater value than they have ever been.
Enter BG the buzzkill. The 800 lb. Gorilla in the room not mentioned in the their article: paid reviews on blogs and only positive reviews seeded by brands.
"Would likely' buy based on reviews is way different than ‘Did buy.’ Would like to see the question put to them “After your puchase(s), how accurate did the review for your product turn out to be?”
@BG: I suspect that consumers will see through the fake reviews and paid-for blog posts. The study in question seemed to indicate that they were talking more about Amazon-esque reviews on the site of the very merchant the consumer would be buying from.
Said merchant having a vested interest in keeping the reviews honest.
Also, if 50 people say the handle broke in a week, 3 or 4 fake posts about what a great handle it is aren't going to make much difference.
"Said merchant having a vested interest in keeping the reviews honest."
That's still my point though. And I wouldn't be quick to dismiss those three or four. Intent is one thing, reality another. They may have an interest in it but that doesn't mean they can prevent it, nor try real hard to. I've read way too many positive reviews on stuff from books to music to movies that made me question what they were smoking.
You say three or four in the context of many, okay, but that ‘many’ is what the Facebook CEO used to valuate himself through the roof, (and MySpace before him, etc.)–and I question the ‘many.’
Those thousands of “Hey, thanks for the add!” comments by unverified users are what they hold up to advertisers and go “See, we have the numbers and millions of impressions you want!”
And what's it based on? The same type of people who would think nothing of accepting a Pay Per Review fee on their blog. People seem to think now that “I want to get paid” is their right. But they go unnoticed because in the bigger picture, the agency handling the media buy looks at one thing–traffic. They don't care how a site gets it, as long as it does. Last thing they care about is how a brand’s long-term image might be affected.
They want clicks at any cost.
Maybe I’m extra bitter today, but you don't think a PR agency doesn’t send out feelers on Craig's to be part of a ‘Cool, dynamic marketing street team!’? (Even sounds like I’ve seen it done, ahem, cough, cough. ;-p )
In an attempt to game the new social media environment, mega brands will find ways to get their good word in edgewise, or otherwise.
Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut or a Coke are not above the fake blog thing or poorly-written MySpace page, how hard is it for them to have people plant fake comments written by someone at the agency?
This whole thing will move on without me, all I’m saying is the only WOM I trust is from someone I know, not someone I don’t. This ‘trust a review’ mindset just made the positive/favorable review the Golden Child that brands will now pursue–anyway they can.
How can that not incentivize people to game the system just to ‘get theirs.’
@Bill: You're one of those guys who don't use EZ Pass because you're convinced the government is tracking you, right?
Seriously- it's pretty easy to spot a fake review. And I think most people are very aware of them.
No one is going to blogs for product reviews.
They're talking going to Amazon or TripAdvisor or even CircuitCity.com and checking out the product reviews. People really can see through the fake ones. And when they do, they eliminate that company from consideration for their sleaziness, so it's a pretty risky strategy.
Nope. EZ pass. No way I'm sitting on the far right of the cash only lane on the Tappan Zee.
Okay, still, when I want an opinion, I first go to a friend and ask them what they thought of (x).
I do believe in black helicopters and I do not trust online reviews for two reasons: forgetting the possibility that a review is a plant, one reviewer can make a great case for why product (x) sucks and the next person though might contradict it by being as persuasive.
Secondly, I have had differing experiences with what a review says and what mine has been after buying a product, especially in the music review department.
I just don't need to see what 50 strangers people say. I ask two out of three friends and that's my poll.
Back to the fake thing, yes, blogs are one thing and you can spot them. But all reviews have some bias, no? Even look at eBay. Unless you're a serial killer, you're getting a positive review as a buyer/seller–just as long as the funds clear the PayPal account.
Uh-oh. Damn, gotta run. See ya!
@BG: You're still comparing apples and oranges.
* Online reviews are popular because there are lots of products we want that our friends can't tell us about. Lots of times I buy things that my friends don't own or have opinions about And so what people look at those reviews for is less "which one is fantastic" and more which one sucks and doesn't do what's promised."
* I still believe most people can judge the relevancy of a review. There was an article I read not that long ago, for example, where someone from a small town in the Midwest was saying that when she saw TripAdvisor reviews from someone from NYC or LA, she figured they were not judging it the way she would.
*I'm sorry you've had bad experience listening to online music reviews, but caveat emptor: music is far more subjective than consumer goods. Even something a well-respected music critic likes may turn out to be something you hate.
Lol, well I do go off-topic at times, but not sure about apples and oranges. I mean yeah, I know blogs and paid reviews and all that are obviously different animals.
I guess my reaction is that now that study came out saying “trust WOM,” well sorry, but duh, no kidding. WOM has always been the more reliable way to spread the love. But now it's going to be heralded as much as SL was as the thing brands need to focus on most.
I like to think about a brand in general rather than one specific product anyway. And it seems to me that info's been out for some time with a quick google of (insert product/brand) and the word “Hate/love.”
I think I‘ve beaten this horse enough though.
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