In just 25 years the Internet has had a profound effect on the way companies interact with customers and prospects. From providing engaging content on websites to building brand awareness using social media and ‘viral’ advertising the world of marketing has changed forever.

Social media has also provided customers with a voice, and while this can be positive it can also create public relations nightmares. One only has to look as far as the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ incident that wiped 10% off the company’s valuation within four days of the video (see below) being posted to understand how powerful social media can be.

While it is relatively easy to discuss such large incidents, it is perhaps harder to quantify the power of third party information and reviews. In 2012, Google introduced the concept of the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ that describes how the consumer’s research and decision-making journey on the way to making a purchase has changed because of the Internet.

For instance, Google has published research[1] that shows that the average consumer tech shopper uses more than 14 sources of online information to arrive at their final purchase decision – many of them user reviews, comparison websites and retailer websites.

However, a recent study in Harvard Business Review[2], shows that this behaviour hasn’t become ubiquitous – and buyer behaviour very much depends on the type of products people are buying.

In the article, Simonson and Rosen state that buyer behaviour is typically affected by a combination of three things:
1. Prior preferences, beliefs and experiences (P)
2. Information from marketing (M)
3. And input from other sources such as reviews (O

This influence mix is a zero-sum game: the greater reliance on one source of influence, the less need for the others.

While habitual purchases such as buying standard office supplies will depend primarily on P, someone buying a new office chair is likely to be persuaded by packaging, brand, and point of purchase messages – all components of M.

As the importance of the objects being purchased increases (both in personal and professional terms), the importance of O increases.

Online reviews are therefore becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix for both consumer and b2b purchases. Some b2b websites, such as SelectScience are now providing the facility for people owning laboratory equipment (in this example) to review products they own or use. What’s more they even provide (for a fee) widgets that allow those reviews to appear on your own website in an Amazon-like manner.

Of course, many b2b component purchases still involve samples and development kits for the design-in process – another important component of O. While samples and in-house testing may play a greater role in the component selection process, reviews will still play an increasingly important role in ensuring that prospects spend time validating the performance of your solutions in the first place.

To find out more how Pinnacle can help you boost your influence through online reviews, please download our reviews case study booklet.

[1] The Zero Moment of Truth for Consumer Electronics, Google / Shopper Sciences, April 2011

[2] What Marketers Misunderstand About Online Reviews, I. Simonson and E. Rosen, Harvard Business Review, January 2014