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.