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For Driving Purchases, Customer Reviews Trump Pro Critics

Nearly three out of four searched for online reviews before buying

Professional reviewers are often seen as having the last word on consumer electronics, but their influence on purchase decisions may actually be weaker than the recommendations of fellow consumers.

A study of consumers who had recently made an electronics purchase, conducted by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research in September 2012, found that shoppers were more likely to pay attention to consumer reviews than professional reviews across every product category. Respondents favored consumer reviews by the greatest margin when buying headphones or earbuds, at 79%. Shoppers were most likely to take a professional critic’s advice when buying a tablet, but still only 39% preferred “official” advice on such a purchase.

Consumers hungry for reviews are most likely to search for them online, according to the research. This strategy was even more popular than more social methods of sourcing reviews, such as emailing friends or soliciting opinions from followers on social networks. In other words, consumers may not be passing over professional reviews in favor of the advice of people known to them. Instead, they seem to believe that other consumers, even strangers, are more likely to have had the kind of hands-on experience with a product that is relevant to their own purchase decision.

But just because consumers may not favor professional reviews does not mean that they are not careful in evaluating what they read. Four-fifths of survey participants reported having felt concern about the authenticity of online reviews.

They looked for signs that reviews were unbiased and posted by legitimate consumers—not companies or their rivals. But despite these potential pitfalls, electronics purchasers seem to believe that online consumer reviews give them the clearest insight into a product.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Facebook Shows Outsized Influence on Social TV” and “Buyer Penetration Still Lags in Mexico's Emerging Ecommerce Market.”

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