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According to an April 2013 study from Adobe Systems, 44% of internet users in the UK listened to product or brand advice from consumer forums/publications. This was only 10 percentage points behind those who said they’d listen to family, friends or coworkers. Only internet users in Germany were more willing to place their trust in those who are essentially strangers—indeed, consumer forums were cited by more respondents than any other source in the country.
A March 2013 study from media law firm Wiggin put friends further down the pecking order.
UK web users were asked which online recommendations they trusted, and 50% cited user comments on products, such as those left on commerce sites like Amazon. Facebook friends took second place, cited by 35%, and Twitter friends came in fourth, at 25%. Notably, though, forums and user review sections on commerce sites offer opinions and recommendations dedicated to the product or brand for which information is being sought. Social networks, on the other hand, are not optimized for this purpose—they are not usually the first port of call when it comes to product critiques.
Of course, their are myriad digital sources that can help inform buying decisions, and UK consumers are increasingly giving even more weight to these outlets—alongside the more traditional word-of-mouth resources. In January of this year, marketing services firm Epsilon conducted a study into consumer loyalty. It asked respondents across income groups about sources of information that influence purchase decisions. Friends were the most-cited responses, at 43%. But online search engines tied with family members, with each used by 38% of respondents. Ratings/review sites (37%) and product/company websites (27%) also performed well.
One particularly interesting statistic to come from this study was that high-income individuals were most likely to rely on a very broad swath of sources to inform their opinion, with higher-than-average respondent numbers in the majority of cases. Indeed, this group only underindexed when it came to the potentially most biased sources—retail staff and TV ads. And among this demographic, the greatest percentage put their trust in the opinions of strangers, with 50% relying on ratings/review websites.
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