80% Research Products on Web, Most use Social Media Tools for Peer Opinions before Buying

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According to a new survey, 80% of consumers always - or almost always - use the internet to research products, and most use social media tools for peer opinions before making a purchasing decision, says veteran San Antonio SEO consultant and social media coach Jon Donley.

Web Consulting, SEO and Social Media

Web Consulting, SEO and Social Media

Peer recommendations and reviews are a powerful influence, and a large majority (of consumers) has rejected goods or services because of them.

According to a new survey, 80% of consumers always - or almost always - use the internet to research products, and most use social media tools for peer opinions before making a purchasing decision, says veteran San Antonio SEO consultant and social media coach Jon Donley.

Results of the new survey illustrate the increasing influence of the internet in the marketplace, and the growing power of search, social tools and business reviews and ratings, Donley said.

The survey, commissioned by San Antonio web design and search consulting firm Cook Profitability Services, also illustrates the fading use and influence of the telephone book as a resource for consumers.

Consumer internet research

More than 80% of survey recipients say they always or almost always research products – electronics, movies, appliances, cars, clothes, etc. – on the internet before purchase. Another 16% reported that they sometimes research products on the web. Only about 3% say they seldom, if ever, do internet research.

The majority of respondents (52%) also always or almost always research professional service providers – such as medical, dental, legal, plumbing, etc. Another 31% say they sometimes research these providers on the web. Only 17% say they seldom, if ever, do such research.

Only 10% of respondents say they always, or almost always, use the traditional telephone book for product or service research. Nearly 70% say they seldom, if ever, use the telephone book. A remaining 20% say they occasionally use the book. And less than a quarter say they use the online version of the phone directory.

Consumers use a mix of online tools as they research goods and services, but overwhelmingly, search engines are the leading tool. They survey allowed respondents to select all the tools they use. The results are as follows:

  •     Search Engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) – 96%
  •     Customer reviews (Yelp, Yahoo Local, City Search, Google Places, etc.) – 63%
  •     Company site or online store (Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, etc.) – 53%
  •     Social media sites (Facebook, Linkedin, Google +, Twitter, etc.) – 44%
  •     Professional reviews (movie critics, music critics, restaurant critics, etc.) – 43%
  •     Online directories (yellowpages.com, etc.) – 22%
  •     Better Business Bureau, government sites or media reports – 15%

The survey underlined the importance of social media in consumer purchasing decisions, especially the opinions of other consumers.

“This is supported by many studies,” Donley said. “Word of mouth has always been the holy grail of marketing. Now it’s been empowered by the web, and people are hungry to know what their peers think when they make decisions.”

The Facebook giant

And while Facebook – at 800 million active members – is the poster child for social, it’s only a part of the puzzle. Social media includes any internet-enabled tool that allows users to contribute or share content with others. This can range from blogs, comments, forums, photo- and video-sharing sites, email, news feeds and powerful business rating and review sites.

The CPS survey questioned its respondents about their use of some major social tools and sites. (Survey members were allowed to choose all that applied from this specific list.)

  •     Facebook – 86%
  •     You Tube – 62%
  •     Twitter – 44%
  •     Linkedin – 28%
  •     Forums/bulletin boards – 27%
  •     Blogs – 23%
  •     Flickr – 16%
  •     MySpace – 16%
  •     Other – 7%
  •     Picasa – 5%
  •     Digg – 4%
  •     Vimeo – 3%
  •     Reddit – 3%
  •     Del.icio.us – 3%

“The survey shows that connected consumers have energetically embraced the power of the internet to make informed purchasing decisions,” Donley said. “Their research almost always starts on a search engine, which in turn is a gateway into customer review and rating sites, company sites and stores, and to editorial reviews. Peer recommendations and reviews are a powerful influence, and a large majority has rejected goods or services because of them.”

For businesses trying to decide on their marketing budget allotments, he said, the survey results flag some important issues.

About Cook Profitability Services

CPS is a national full-service marketing, new media development and management consulting firm, based in San Antonio, specializing in comprehensive profitability services for dental practices and professional offices.

About Jon Donley

Jon is Cook Profitability Service’s public relations and marketing director. His 30-plus years of journalism and online experience include founding and management of market-leading news sites in San Antonio and New Orleans. He directed and expanded a social media network on NOLA.com that was credited with the rescue and reunion of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims; he shared in the 2006 Pulitzer prizes for Public Service and Breaking News.

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