Customer Reviews vs. Expert Reviews

Consumers are looking to customer reviews more than ever, and they are increasingly likely to trust them. A recent survey found that 84% of respondents trusted online reviews as much as the recommendations of friends and family.

But there are a couple of other sources of information that also tend to score high in the trust stakes: your brand’s website, and expert information, including expert reviews.

What kind of content do people notice?

Inpowered commissioned a Nielsen study that dug deep into consumer response to these three types of media, beyond the question of trust. They checked the effectiveness of all three throughout the path to purchase. They found that expert content was actually the strongest performer.

But it’s worth following their research along that path to purchase. The first question is simply, what kind of content do consumers use to make decisions? TV and radio ads, still likely to be the highest spend for most companies, are at the bottom of the list and still falling, according to this study.  Social media tops the list, closely followed by user reviews and online ads.

Grouped together after these top three are expert reviews, word of mouth, and official brand websites.

What kind of content affects decisions?

When we look not just at where people go for their information but at which sources most strongly affect their decision making, the order changes. Testing the kind of content that affects consumer likelihood of making a purchase, familiarity with brands, and a sense of affinity with brands shows expert content ahead of the other types in every case.

The strength of these results is affected by the type of product being tested. The more expensive and complex an item, the more important expert content becomes. Items tested ranged from electric toothbrushes to car seats to to high-end HDTVs and new cars. While expert content was the winner in each category, the difference between expert content and other types of content was smaller when the items were less expensive.

The perception of expertise among consumers also affected the rankings. So, since gamers tend to consider other gamers experts, consumer reviews were more highly valued for this product.

What does this mean for your brand? Fortunately, you don’t have to pick and choose. A strong brand website can easily include expert information and consumer reviews. Make sure yours does.



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