Negative consumer reviews online are becoming increasingly important to would-be buyers, according to a new study, with 80% of consumers saying they have changed their mind about a purchase after reading a thumbs-down report.
That's up from 67% last, according to the new 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker from Cone Inc., a Boston-based public relations and marketing communications agency.
"Negative information is now just as powerful as positive information," Mike Hollywood, Cone's director of new media, tells Marketing Daily. "For marketers, that means that leaving your head in the sand and just letting people make negative comments isn't working any longer. Reaching out and trying to make the consumer experience better, even if you can't solve the problem, is important."
The good news is that word-of-mouth for positive reviews has swayed 87% of shoppers, confirming their decision to purchase. And nearly 90% say they find online channels a trustworthy source for product and service reviews.
The study also finds that the pricier the purchase, the more likely shoppers are to do extra digging, with people saying they are nearly 25% more likely to verify recommendations for high-cost purchases, such as cars, than they were in 2010. And 59% say they are more likely to research products or services online because they can easily access applications on their cell phones.
The survey, which is based on responses from just over 1,000 adults, finds that shoppers are doing homework well beyond reading user reviews and comments on e-commerce sites, and are 50% more likely now than they were last year to search for articles and blog recommendations (42% in 2011 vs. 28% in 2010).
An important trend, says Hollywood, is that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about sorting out which reviews are more important, and a credible-sounding negative review from someone willing to leave their name, for example, makes a bigger impact than a cranky anonymous consumer.
"Consumers do have the ability to sniff out who might have an ulterior motive. They are definitely giving more credence to their trustworthy sources, often valuing the opinion of bloggers and reviewers more than mainstream media," he says. "Marketers can use that to their advantage by targeting the bloggers and commenters in their industry that have, or will soon have, that level of credibility."