immediate Insights – Are customers the new product experts?

One of the most intriguing trends emerging from the social shopping explosion is the re-positioning of the consumer as product expert; the level of trust we now place on strangers.

A recent post on ReadWriteWeb provided some further statistical evidence of this movement with specific reference to the travel industry. Referring to Kevin May’s review of the latest World Travel Market (WTM) Industry Report, Curt Hopkins writes: “Peer recommendations have overtaken specialist knowledge as a make-or-break point for online purchases”, and highlights that online forums and chat-rooms appear to have more influence on travel decisions than travel blogs.

The inherently social nature of sharing holiday discussions and the popularity of travel related conversations across social media could offer some explanation for why these mediums are so popular; but it is interesting to see how this pattern is replicated across other product categories. Whether the experiential nature of travel means that we prefer personal accounts to professional advice; and whether there are some areas where the consumer isn’t always right.

We asked survey respondents “Who would you trust to provide you with an accurate opinion on the following products?” With 19.6% of people trusting ‘another consumer online’ over both ‘someone who works at the retailer‘ (10.6%) and ‘a professional journalist’ (4.8%) in relation to travel products, our results echoed the WTM report. And we also found that:

  • On average, the only product categories where someone who works for the retailer is trusted more than another consumer online are Sporting/Outdoor equipment, DIY purchases and Property/housing. For property/housing, the difference was only 1%.
  • On average, men are more trusting of other consumers online than women. Women also trust ‘someone who works for the retailer’ more in relation to financial services and cars/automotives.
  • Women trust the opinion of someone who works for a retailer 7% more than they trust other online consumers in relation to DIY products. Men trust them 0.7% more.
  • Less than 1% of people trust ‘A celebrity that you like’, with the exception of their opinion on health and beauty products (1.8%) and fashion (1.6%). 1.3% of men would also trust celebrity’s opinions on sporting/outdoor products.

Trust Graphs travel
question 1

So what does this mean?

Let the consumer speak

– the travel industry has some great travel communities for people to share travel advice, ideas and recommendations.  So make it easy for consumers to share recommendations and reviews, particularly if you operate in an area where trust in other consumers is high.

Understand the influences

– our research highlights the different sources of influence across the product groups. Understanding these can help to direct where knowledge is provided and by whom.

Collaborate with the consumer

– work with reviews and reviewers to develop your brand and extend your customer base.

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