A new study by Rubicon Consulting states that word of mouth and online reviews are the most influential factors in consumer purchasing decisions. According to the study, the Internet is also important in providing customer support. The survey also looked at consumer’s use and perceptions of different websites and categories of websites:
- The Web is the #2 resource for customer support information, after user manuals. It ranks ahead of calling the manufacturer or asking a dealer.
- Website categories that get the most daily usage are search, social communities like MySpace and Facebook, general news websites like CNN.com and NYTimes.com, and online banking.
- The websites that Americans value most are (in order), Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Facebook.
- Although Yahoo’s financial challenges have generated a lot of press attention, it continues to have a very large and loyal following.
- Facebook appears to be ahead of MySpace in terms of number of users in the US, and perceived value of the site.
- Despite extensive publicity, the community sites SecondLife and Twitter reach only a few percent of US Internet users. (Surprise, surprise.)
- Democrats are more active online than Republicans. Democrats are more likely to participate in online communities, and say they are more heavily influenced in their voting decisions by information they find online.
- Young people (age 22 and under) account for about half of all the content and comments posted online.
What’s the take home message for us? Well, this may be preaching to the choir, but it’s important to have an online presence, including in search results and online communities (especially Facebook, apparently). Harry Max of Rubicon Consulting says:
Many companies downplay the importance of online communities because only a few percent of all Internet users contribute to them heavily. What they don’t understand is that most other Internet users read those reviews and rely on them heavily when making purchase decisions. Taking good care of online communities can be a huge money-saver for companies trying to get more marketing impact from limited budgets.
On that note, it’s also important to keep track of what people are saying about your company and products in those online communities—aka online reputation management. (Gee, I wonder where you could find something to help monitor all these communities and more for mentions of your company and products. . . .)
What do you think—which of these observations is most useful? Most surprising?