If two golfers reach the green around the same time, neither wants to putt first. That’s because it’s always instructive to watch the other player’s ball roll; it susses out hidden breaks and the speed of the green.
That behavior is not unique to golf; shoppers look to learn from their peers as well. As part of their participation in the Consumer Electronics Show last week, PR giant Weber Shandwick released a study that found the greatest influence on electronics purchase decisions comes from consumer reviews, not professional ones. In fact, electronics buyers value consumer reviews over editorial reviews by a more than three to one margin. Perhaps more importantly, they found that on average, buyers checked eleven consumer reviews before committing to a purchase.
All of this merely confirms the power of recommendation. As Paul Rand, President of Omnicom word of mouth shop Zócalo Group, asserts quite regularly about buyers; “92% say that the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful influencer of their purchase decision.”
So it only makes sense for marketers to leverage this phenomenon and encourage reviews. But sales are a competition so there’s always someone looking to bring performance enhancing drugs to the race. Last Summer, Forbes ran an article concerning authors who anonymously pen self-promoting book reviews, or worse, slams on the work of rival authors. Around the New Year, the Huffington Post ran a piece on view count inflation on YouTube music video counts and a subsequent adjustment in those numbers.
People innately seek the opinions of others they respect and trust. And well tended brand communities provide forums for sharing those opinions. Weber Shandwick’s report even closes with suggestions on how marketers can protect their recommendations’ legitimacy so they stay effective. But as long as there is money involved, some dirtbag will try to Lance the system and scam some bucks.
Yet another reason why authenticity is such a valued commodity these days.