Whose Product Review Do You Trust?

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It seems like every day someone comes out with a survey that shows that the most trusted source of opinions are our friends and family. My reaction: Duh. This has always been true. Web 2.0 didn’t cause this — it only enabled the sharing of opinions.

One recent source of this data point is Forrester Research who found that 83% of consumers said that their most trusted source for a product review was the opinion of a friend or acquaintance who has used a product or service.

What’s more eye-opening — and often lost in all the discussion about social media — is what came in at second place, cited by 75% of respondents: A review of a product or service in a newspaper, magazine, or on TV. Forrester doesn’t report its data with a margin of error, but if it did, it’s possible that these top two sources could be equally trusted.

Perhaps even more surprising, especially to the blogosphere, was that the least trusted source of information was an online review by a blogger, trusted by only 30% of respondents.

What does it mean?

  • User reviews don’t replace expert reviews. Forrester didn’t break out their findings by demographics, but I’d guess that consumers over the age of 40 were the ones driving up the trust in newspapers, magazines, and TV. Marketers need to look at their existing (and target) customers’ demographics to determine which sources of reviews will be most effective, from both an impact (change in buying intention) and cost (to collect and publish reviews) perspective.
  • Marketers need to bring it all together. While Forrester’s data suggest that social media sites would be a natural outlet for consumers to find and share reviews, it did find that 60% of respondents trusted reviews on a retailer’s site. Site designers should incorporate various sources of reviews on their sites, and incorporate the types of trusted sources into the user personas that they define.
  • Buying bloggers’ favors are fruitless. The recent incident with Microsoft allegedly incenting bloggers to publish favorable remarks certainly backfired from a PR perspective. But Forrester’s data suggests that it wouldn’t have been an effective way to influence buyer intentions or behavior in the first place.

Technorati tags: Product reviews, Consumer trust

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