Online consumers spread the word

Consumers are increasingly reading online, peer-written product reviews to help them decide what to buy, a new study shows.

According to a new Deloitte Consulting consumer survey reported by the US magazine Advertising Age, 62% of consumers now read product reviews on the internet. And, it appears, it isn’t just young people getting online: 42% of people 75 and older check out a review on the internet before buying.

The kind of products people are seeking online reviews for is also changing. Technology products such as computers and digital cameras have long been the subject of dedicated product review sites, but the Deloitte survey reveals that sites dedicated to more mundane products are now developing a presence.

The study found that while 45% of consumers had read at least one product review in the past year on home electronics, 14% had read reviews on pet products, 18% on beauty and grooming products, and 17% on food and household cleaning products.

And despite the fact that it is often impossible to know whether a person who has written a particular online review is credible, 98% of people in Deloitte’s study found online reviews believable, while 82% considered them credible enough to have gone out and bought at least one product as a result.

Deloitte also provides three tips for increasing the value you get from online word of mouth:

  1. Buy search advertising on key category words. It’s unglamorous and doesn’t fit into existing agency relationships, but at least for now can be incredibly cheap. And consumers both want and expect to see major brands represented in the paid listings.
  2. Find some “link love” for positive reviews. Search-engine optimisation is legal and (should be) ethical. Fake reviews aren’t.
  3. Make it easy to find product information on brand websites. And don’t be afraid to use them to pitch brand benefits. Consumers both want and expect this, and people who write online reviews are likely to read it.

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