Looking Online to Verify Word-of-Mouth Recommendations

Word of mouth is all well and good, but a new Cone Inc. report indicates that consumers don’t take it as gospel when deciding on purchases. With all due respect to Uncle So-and-so’s opinion about what they should buy, people are looking online for information to support or rebut such advice.

Eighty-one percent of respondents to Cone’s polling (fielded online last month) agreed with the statement, “After getting a recommendation about a product or service I may want to purchase, I go online to do additional research about that product or service before deciding whether to purchase it.”

Finding such information helps seal the deal: 77 percent agreed they’re more likely to buy things “when I can find additional recommendations about them online.” As the chart indicates, the tendency to seek online confirmation or refutation of a recommendation is not confined to big-ticket purchases but extends to something as minor as a meal out or a movie.

Contrary to what you might guess, good news is more potent than bad in shaping purchase decisions for items that have been recommended to a consumer. Sixty-eight percent said “negative information” they’ve found online has led them to “change your mind about purchasing a product or service recommended to you.” But even more, 80 percent, said “positive information” found online has “reinforced your decision” to buy a recommended product or service.