Marketing and PR agency Cone Communications has released the results of their 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker (PDF). The survey looked at consumer buying behavior in 2011 and compared it to data from 2010. Overall, the survey found that consumers are increasingly turning to the internet for information to help make their buying decisions, and that they increasingly regard said information as trustworthy.
According to last year’s data, 81% of consumers consulted internet sources before making purchases. This year that number increased to 85%. Also, 85% said they were more likely to make a purchase if they had the opportunity to research it on the internet first. That represents a significant jump from last year, when only 77% said the same.
The study also learned that information found on the internet has a significant impact on consumer decisions. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that positive reviews of a product online had reinforced their decision to purchase it, up from 80% last year. The influence of negative reviews showed a much larger jump, however: last year just 68% of respondents said that a negative review had caused them not to purchase a product. This year the survey found that 80% said they had changed their mind on a purchase because of negative information.
Cone suggests that the explanation for the increases from last year are best explained by the increasing ease and convenience of consumer access to the internet. The takeaway for marketers, says Cone’s Mike Hollywood, is that traditional word-of-mouth channels are no longer sufficient, and that marketers need to focus on “targeting the right people” as a “first step toward influencing the conversation.”