Consumer Reviewers Wield More Power Than Pro Critics in Driving Purchase Decisions [Infographic]

It’s become an article of faith within PR precincts that so-called media influencers can have a lot of pull when it comes to exposing your brand and driving purchasing intent.

Now communications execs can add “consumer reviewers” into the mix of stakeholders that they need to manage.

According to a new study, 65% of potential consumer electronics purchasers are inspired by a consumer review to select a brand that had not been in their original consideration set. "Buy It, Try It, Rate It" was released by PR agency Weber Shandwick and conducted by KRC Research.

The online study, which was conducted in September 2012, took the pulse 2,004 American adults who recently made one or more purchases of consumer electronics.

They were surveyed to understand how they’re using reviews to make buying decisions and the impact of consumer-generated product reviews on sales results.  Turns out that consumer reviews trump professional reviewers as the key purchase influencers.

While the study focuses on the purchasing of consumer electronics, we’re betting that the power of consumer reviews transcends any market sector, whether its B2C or, perhaps more important because of its vertical nature, B2B.

PR pros first need to determine which reviewers are the most passionate (positive, negative or neutral) about their company’s products and/or services and deploy communications strategies that are designed to personalize relationships with reviewers and get a better grasp of what makes them tick.

When it comes to cultivating product reviewers, PR pros need to be careful not put all of their eggs in one basket: According to the study, the average buyer consults 11 consumer reviews on the path to purchase.

“We know consumer reviewers are a powerful force,” said Bradford Williams, president of Weber Shandwick’s North American Technology Practice, in a statement.  “Now we know that they are the most powerful force.  Savvy marketers are the ones who listen to, manage and deploy consumer reviewers to harness their considerable might at the cash register.”

As consumer reviewers increase their clout in the market, PR pros have an opportunity to build a key (and nontraditional asset) into their communications matrix.

Here are some of the other key findings from the study:

  • By a margin of more than three to one (77% vs. 23%) a majority of the respondents said they were concerned about the authenticity of consumer reviews (80%).

  • In consumer reviews, the most helpful ones are those that seem fair and reasonable (32%), are well written (27%) and contain statistics, specifications and technical data (25%).

  • Shoppers trust consumer reviews on (84%) and (75%) the most, topping Consumer Reports (72%).  Consumers show no apparent discomfort in getting their research from a seller of the products they’re considering. 

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1