October 28, 2008, 12:00 AM

Reviews have potent influence, and retailers should court reviewers

Only word of mouth tops customer reviews when it comes to influencing purchases, a new survey says. Consequently, striking relationships with the small number of Internet users who write reviews is key.

Customer reviews are second only to word of mouth when it comes to influencing purchases, according to a new survey.

9% of Internet users produce 80% of all user-generated content: As a result, courting the small fraction of Internet users who write online reviews is important for many companies-but it`s a tactic they often neglect, says technology strategy firm Rubicon Consulting, which conducted the survey of 3,036 U.S. Internet users.

“Many companies downplay the importance of online communities because only a few percent of all Internet users contribute to them heavily,” says Harry Max, a principal at Rubicon Consulting. “What they don’t understand is that most other Internet users read those reviews and rely on them heavily when making purchase decisions. Taking good care of online communities can be a huge money-saver for companies trying to get more marketing impact from limited budgets.”

The survey, conducted in September, studied the influence of the Internet in various areas. It also found that:

  • The web sites Americans value most are, in order: Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook.
  • Facebook is ahead of MySpace in terms of perceived value of the site.
  • The web is the second most popular resource for customer support information, after user manuals. It ranks ahead of calling the manufacturer or asking a dealer.
  • Web site categories that get the most daily usage are search, social networks, general news and online banking.
  • Democrats are more active online than Republicans, and Democrats are more likely to participate in online communities.


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