Consumers today have access to a wide range of information and opinion from independent third parties about products, services, companies and individuals. We use these data sources to discover, evaluate and compare the things we’re interested in. Marketers sometimes call this burgeoning phenomenon of online opinion-sharing “electronic Word of Mouth” (eWOM), a term that encompasses online reviews, social media and discussion forums.

Increasingly, we train ourselves to do a kind of vague triangulation on the truth from these disparate sources of information, whether we’re looking at a new TV, an Indian restaurant or a job candidate. According to one study, the typical consumer today checks 10.4 information sources before buying a product or service.

Internet users in the U.S. generate more than 500 billion impressions on each other via eWOM channels specifically regarding products and services—more than a quarter of the number of impressions advertisers make. Given the overwhelming influence that consumer opinions carry, getting a business involved in this peer-to-peer conversation can have a greater marketing impact at a lower cost than almost any paid advertising.

A half-star improvement on Yelp’s 5-star rating makes it 30-49% more likely that a restaurant will sell out seats during its peak hours.

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