October 30, 2012, 12:36 PM

Family trumps friends for online product recommendations

A survey finds 34% of Americans say they trust their relatives’ opinions.

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Three-fifths of online shoppers say that family, friends and strangers’ product recommendations will influence an online purchase in the next year, according to a new survey conducted by market research firm Kelton Global that was commissioned by venture capital firm Battery Ventures.

But not all recommendations are created equal. 34% of consumers say that family members’ reviews, whether offered in person or posted on Facebook or elsewhere online, rank as the most trustworthy source of reviews, followed by friends (21%), news reports (19%), ads (10%), business contacts (4%), strangers (3%), bloggers (3%) and celebrities (1%). The remaining respondents selected “other.”

That finding suggests that consumers are more likely to bank on reviews from people they don’t know on sites like Facebook and Yelp more than they rely on celebrities. In fact, 30% of shoppers say that celebrities who post their thoughts on a product on Twitter or share their opinions in an ad are the least trustworthy sources of product information.  

Findings come from an online survey of 1,013 American consumers conducted in May.

The survey also found that many consumers are discriminating in their use of reviews. Among the reasons that will lead consumers to dismiss reviews:  Poor grammar or spelling (cited by 45%); is anonymous (33%); comes across as too negative (26%); follows too many existing reviews with the same opinion (26%); is too positive (19%); is written by someone who is not similar to the consumer (12%); is too brief (11%); is too long (11%). Consumers could provide more than one answer to that question. Reviews on Yelp or retailers’ web sites can be anonymous. Reviews on Facebook, which often take the form of a post, include the consumer’s name and her photo or an image she selected.

One reason that consumers trust their friends’ reviews is that they trust their motivations, the survey finds. Among the reasons consumers believe that their friends are offering their opinion of a product is because they are trying to help (34%) or they believe in the product (33%). 22% believe their friends have ulterior motives, such as getting a product at a discount. 11% cited “none of these reasons.”

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