So Much for Online Word of Mouth

Part of the gospel of digital marketing is that people who shop for a product online are apt to comment on their purchase online. A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project casts doubt on that notion, though, at least where music and cell phones are concerned.

The study confirmed that consumers do much of their pre-purchase reconnaissance online. Among people who bought a cell phone in the past year, 39 percent used the Internet for product research; 10 percent said information they found online had a “major impact” on their choice of product. For music, 56 percent hunted online, and 7 percent said online information had a major impact in guiding their purchase.

Then again, the Internet was just one of consumers’ sources of information, and not the most prominent one. In shopping for a cell phone, 59 percent “asked an expert or salesperson for advice,” and 49 percent went to at least one cell phone store. As for possible music purchases, 83 percent of those who bought something said they learned of material from the radio, TV or a movie, and 64 percent got information from family, friends or co-workers.

Relatively few purchasers consummated the deal online — 22 percent of those who bought music (whether via digital download or online order of a compact disc), and 12 percent of those who bought a cell phone. Combined with their reliance on offline information sources, this may help explain why consumers didn’t feel compelled to post online comments or ratings once they’d bought something in these two categories. At any rate, just 5 percent remarked online about music they’d bought, and just 3 percent did so about a cell phone purchase.

Among other tidbits from the study: Forty-eight percent of those who went online to seek information about cell phones said it “changed the model or brand of the cell phone they bought.” Thirty-seven percent who went online to research a music purchase said “it led them to buy more music than they otherwise would have.”