Consumers across generations are most likely to use online product reviews to research a consumer goods product or brand before buying, according to a Salesforce Research report [pdf]. Based on a survey of more than 2,000 US adults, the study shows that online reviews and word-of-mouth are considerably more influential to the research process for Millennials than for older adults.
That finding is supported by various other pieces of research:
- A recent MarketingCharts study analyzing marketing financial services to Millennials found that this group relies on word-of-mouth to a much greater extent than other adults when choosing a financial services institution;
- A survey from Deloitte revealed that word-of-mouth influences purchases more for Millennials and Gen Xers than for Baby Boomers and Matures;
- Likewise, a new MarketingCharts study of consumer purchase influencers revealed that word-of-mouth has a far greater influence on Millennials than on older generations; and
- A Radius Global Marketing Research study from back in early 2014 similarly demonstrated that word-of-mouth is the top influence on Millennials’ purchases across 4 categories, with Baby Boomers more reliant on advertising.
In sum, the body of research suggests that Millennials are heavily impacted by the views of friends and family. However, user-generated content – also long associated with Millennials – is perhaps even more influential. In fact, Millennial respondents in the Salesforce study trust online reviewers (40%) most to provide accurate information about consumer goods products, considerably ahead of friends/family/colleagues (24%). This also brings to mind research from several years ago, in which Bazaarvoice data indicated that Millennials entrust their purchase decisions to user-generated content more so than to friends and family.
Millennials’ reliance on word-of-mouth and reviews suggests that positive and negative buzz can have a multiplier effect for brands. On a somewhat encouraging note, more respondents reported having praised a brand publicly (40%) than complained about one publicly (27%), with this true also for 18-34-year-olds (49% and 33%, respectively).
Among those who had praised a brand, the most common outlets for doing so were:
- In person to others (69% overall; 71% among Millennials);
- In-store (47% overall; 37% among Millennials); and
- On personal online channels such as social media or a blog (45% overall; 60% among Millennials).
Respondents who had complained about a brand publicly also were most apt to have done so in person to others (66%). But while in-store or complaints or those over email were the next-most common among Gen Xers (35-54) and Baby Boomers (55+), personal online channels were the second choice for Millennials.
Other Fast Facts
The Salesforce research reveals several other interesting findings:
- Some 45% of adults agree that they have a negative reaction when seeing an online ad or social media promotion of a brand that is related to something they just searched for online, with this sentiment lowest among Millennials (38%) and highest among Boomers (49%);
- Asked why they have a negative reaction, the leading reason given was that it is invasive (61%), followed closely by it being annoying or interrupting the respondents’ actions (57%), with both again more commonly cited by older adults;
- When buying a consumer goods products, adults are more satisfied with the pricing and selection from online-only retailers than with brick-and-mortar stores, but feel that they get better customer service and promotions/offers at brick-and-mortar stores;
- Given the same price, respondents would prefer to make a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store (53%) than at an online-only retailer (28%) or directly from the brand (13%); and
- A majority of respondents prefer to purchase consumer goods in-store rather than via digital means, with this most true of food (95%) and least true for luxury items (55%).
About the Data: The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce, May 9-11, 2016, among 2,095 adults, ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.