According to the Mintel flagship report American Lifestyles 2015, 69% of Americans seek out advice and opinions on goods and services before purchasing. Of those, 70% are likely to visit user or independent review sites before making a purchase, and 57% use social media networks for recommendations.
People are looking for answers on everything from where to eat dinner and which auto dealership gives the best service, to how to score a discount at a local retailer. The collective intelligence of online review sites and social media has allowed consumers to get a second opinion and validate their choices, says the report.opin
As Americans seek input from others before buying, the buying process is less individualized, and purchases may ultimately reflect collective input from a variety of sources. In this way, the connected collective may have a stronger influence than individual preference.
Fiona O’Donnell, Lifestyles Category Manager at Mintel, says that “… the simple act of buying staple household products can be overwhelming to those who have yet to build brand loyalties… consumers are looking to others, peers and strangers alike… in order to validate the choices they’ve made and to avoid feelings of buyer’s remorse…”
The internet has become a lifeline. When faced with a difficult question, or product choice, the internet is often the first place many Americans turn to for research and opinions. 69% of respondents, including 81% of 18-34 year-olds, seek out opinions from others before purchasing. Online user review sites are the most popular resource for opinion-seekers in this age range, while seekers aged 35+ are more likely to put their trust in independent review sites. Social media recommendations hold weight for 72% of opinion-seekers age 25-34 and 46% of those age 45-54.
However, personal recommendations from friends and family still trump reviews from unknown contacts. 54% of respondents agree that they would try a product with negative online reviews, if recommended by someone they know. Online reviews are the most impactful for consumers age 25-34, but overall, data shows that the majority of respondents age 18-54 agree that online reviews help in their decision making process.
Consumers are likely more trusting of reviews when they believe that they share similar qualities with the reviewer. There appears to be some correlation between agreement that online reviews help in the decision making process, and agreement that opinions posted to review pages are from “people like me.” 63% of consumers age 25-44 agreed that opinions posted to company review pages are from people like them.
Independent review sites are considered the most useful (34%) and the most trustworthy (38%) of the sources evaluated, says the report. 33% perceived user review sites to be nearly as useful as independent review sites, but not nearly as trustworthy (24%). Interestingly, says the report, social media contacts are thought to be more trustworthy (31%) than useful (25%).
O’Donnell concludes that “… consumers are doing their homework before purchasing… have become part skeptic and part sleuth… research easier to conduct… (but) knowing who to trust is a whole other matter… consumers … feel that reviewers have biases… therefore put greater trust in the independent sites… social media sites do not rank high for usefulness or trustworthiness… (so) review sites add a layer of credibility to an unknown contact’s opinions…”
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