Posted June 24, 2008 4:29 pm by with 13 comments

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Just in case anyone out there was having a crisis of faith, the Opinion Research Corporation has good news for you: search engines are still the preferred method for conducting product/service research. In a survey of 736 adults released yesterday (PDF), ORC found that not only do most people prefer to use search engines for product research, they also read “online customer feedback” heavily.

That THAT, totally skewed Pew findings!

61% of respondents said they read “online reviews, blogs and other sources of online customer feedback before purchasing a new product or service.” Even more impressive, 83% said that “online product evaluations and reviews had at least some level of influence on their purchasing decisions.” (But only 32% reported posting online feedback themselves. Lazies.)

And it’s not just individual goods and services that people are researching: 70% looked for information on a particular brand of goods and services.

The survey also looked at where in the “funnel” this research was occurring. Most of us in the industry expect it research and reading online opinions to come in fairly early or midway through the purchase process. That wasn’t exactly the case: 38% first consult online reviews when they began their shopping research, but 27% turn to the Internet after narrowing it down to 2-3 choices, and “another 21% are at the narrowing down stage to confirm that they are buying the right product or service” (Not totally sure what that one means…)

ORC makes a sort-of plug for SEO here, which I’ll reiterate: people are turning to search engines to research and buy the products and services that you offer. Are they finding you? (It’s been a while, but I still remember the elevator pitch!)

ORC also hit on another important area that businesses need to watch in these findings:

“Businesses today exist in an era in which it’s nearly impossible to escape the likelihood of being
evaluated…there’s nowhere to hide,” said Linda Shea, SVP and Global Managing Director of Customer Strategies for Opinion Research Corporation. “Companies must be extremely mindful of the power of proliferating online forums and their ability to shape consumer’s perceptions about brands. Even a single negative review, when posted in a very public forum, can have a significant impact on a prospective buyer’s decision to purchase.”

*cough*cough*reputation management*cough*
expert*cough*Andy*cough*cough*Trackur*cough*. (Whoa, sorry ’bout those allergies!)

Finally, the last little tidbit: the most researched product and service categories were:

  • Travel/Recreation/Lesiure (82%)
  • Electronic goods (80%)
  • Household products/services (66%)
  • Clothing (55%)
  • Automotive (55%)
  • Personal care (40%)
  • Food (24%)


  • *cough*cough*LMAO!*cough* 😉

  • Interesting study you are quoting, but don’t get carried away. The research says people now live in an era where businesses are being evaluated. It may come as a shock to ORC but that’s always been the case. Consumers have been evaluating products and services since the first human transactions; it’s not new to the Internet.

    Also, be wary of their figures. Even though the Internet is clearly an important research tool for consumers, their figures show that only 38% of people use it first. In other words, almost two thirds of people do not consult the Internet as their primary research tool. This means that even though we need to use the web effectively to ensure we benefit from product reviews, we must not let this distract us from offline promotion. Even for people who research product choices online, offline analysis is clearly still important.

  • Jordan McCollum

    It may not be new that people evaluate businesses, but the Internet gives us WAY more access to product reviews and services than we had in the days of WOM and company-provided testimonials only.

    And you can spin it the way you want, but it’s still spin. I can say nearly four in ten turn to the Internet first thing, nearly two thirds read consumer opinions online and, without even the spin that ORC put on it (they called this percentage “whopping”): 83% were influenced by those online opinions.

    In Internet marketing, we don’t have to convince people to use offline marketing methods—the vast majority of businesses already are using offline methods. Most businesses have yet to make the leap to effective online marketing.

    Besides that, even if we can get to people in offline marketing, if they go online and find bad reviews, 83% aren’t going to buy from them. Can we give the Internet its due?

  • Agree with both Graham and Jordan. While the internet has expedited the process of product research, WOM is still pretty powerful. Interesting article and as Jordan put it this stresses the question of are customers finding you.

  • rcjordan

    Travel: I use reviews quite a bit, even tripadvisor for travel, but I generally skip the positive reviews and focus on the negatives. Then, once I’ve selected a likely prospect I run an deep search adding the usual qualifiers (+problem, +hate, +rant, +sucks, etc) with the specific +product or +service and +vendor or +merchant. That system works moderately well for hotels, particularly if I use 2 or 3 review sites as ‘negative feeds.’

    Electronics: I never take a blog article like Gizmodo on face value, I’m always sifting through the comments for the real info. Electronics are more difficult and usually require spending extra time just reading -often between the lines- passing articles as they build up after product launch and waiting for the geek tech forums to really dig into the product or brand. I once spent a year waiting for the pricepoint to drop on a 45″ LCD monitor before grabbing the 42″ on an online doorbuster. In this case, the product itself had a personal recommendation from a trusted friend but the merchants offering online sales were getting terrible reviews.

  • WOM is really of great power nowadays.The above post opens quite interesting issues people come across

  • I agree totally with the final list. It tallies with my own research for product/service details on the net.

    Eva White’s last blog post..Charging Your Phone? Forget It!

  • Thanks , Eva

  • It’s real. I’m always read info and comments in internet before buying any no cheap thing.

  • I know I do my research on products before I buy them online.

    Austin(Cowsgonemadd3)’s last blog post..Sony loses 3.3 billion on the playstation 3 game console

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  • I always look for reviews of products online before I ever go out to purchase that product.

    Carolina Panthers Blog’s last blog post..Carolina Panthers Store

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