Online, offline WOM combine

01 September 2011

NEW YORK: Online and offline word of mouth are increasingly working together to influence purchase decisions in the US, new figures show.

Cone, a unit of Omnicom Group, surveyed 1,054 adults, and reported that 89% saw the web as a trustworthy source of information to verify offline recommendations of goods and services.

Some 85% of the panel went online after being recommended a product to aid the decision-making process, and the same number saw purchase intent rise having discovered complimentary feedback.

More specifically, 69% of the sample conducted targeted research about the item in question, 64% searched for consumer reviews, 50% accessed specialist ratings websites and 43% sought out expert comments.

An additional 42% read articles or blog posts covering the goods and services concerned, while just 12% attempted to solicit opinions from their contacts on social networks.

Exactly 80% of interviewees agreed that negative online information had effectively changed their mind about a planned purchase following a recommendation, and 87% stated positive feedback reinforced previous decisions.

A further 60% thought the details they found on the web were useful when discussing electronics and appliances, declining to 55% for the automotive and transport sectors and 54% for telecoms.

Scores here reached 49% for the food and beverage segment, 46% for retail, 39% for financial services, 38% for footwear and apparel and 36% for consumer packaged goods.

A 68% share of shoppers looked to the web if buying something they intended to use for many years, 58% did so when "excited" by a product and 25% followed this path where products are receiving a lot of buzz.

Meanwhile, 59% were more likely to conduct investigations into recommended offerings on the net because they could now use this medium through a browser or app on their mobile phone.

"Consumers want reassurance before opening their purse strings, and personal recommendations alone are just not enough to guarantee a purchase," Mike Hollywood, Cone's director, new media, said.

Data sourced from Cone; additional content by Warc staff