The latest issue of Revenue magazine has an article on the impact of online research on off-line purchases. Quoting from comScore Networks research they found that in the “toy and hobby” category, 42% of people who did online research bought a product directly related to that research – except that 88% of those people made their purchase off-line and only 12% made their purchase online. In the Consumer electronics space, 18% bought based on online research – but 93% of those bought off-line.
Quoting from Opinion Research, they found that “77% of people who do online research before buying a product purchase something when they went to the store the last time they did online research,” with “over half (52%) purchased just the item they did research on, while another 18% purchased that item and additional items.”
Another Research paper, this one from Perfomics is quoted as saying that “the majority of consumers conduct research online during his year’s holiday season and 43% plan to make both online and offline purchases based on that research.” It goes further to say that “the majority of consumers become more brand- sensitive after conducting online research.”
That pretty much confirms that unlike what some analyst firms pretend, online word of mouth has the potential of being much more effective or dangerous than off-line word of mouth.
Take the personal example of Mercedes Benz which was well documented on this site (Mercedes – a case study on how to squander a great brand, Mercedes says that cars fail in the first 50K miles – after that it’s the fault driver, Mercedes Benz does not care about its customers, and Mercedes Benz – poor customer service ROI). For a long while, those rants came out on the top of a variety of Google searches. So if half of the potential buyers do online research before buying, a disproportionate number of them will run into my online rants and at least pause, if not decide against buying this product. The online negative word of mouth reaches a much larger audience than any off-line word of mouth recommendation would have, plus it spans over a much longer period of time, and it also attracts additional negative word of mouth, which only makes the case stronger!
As an example, witness some of the comment excerpts that are still being made on those stories on a regular basis:
- “Just read your blog, Just decided not to purchase a 60K Mercedes I was looking to buy.” (01/04/07)
- “I drive a C180 classic kompressor 52 plate with 35K on the clock. Since day of purchase in Feb 06 the colland warning light comes on every few days. The feeder hose has been replaced, the cap and the head gaskett and still the coolant light comes on every few days. My local MB dealership are at a loss what else to do.” (11/21/06)
- “I for one will never buy a Mercedes Car again and will continue to discourage others from doing so” (11/07/06)
- “I PURCHASED MERCEDES ML 350, 2006 IN APRIL 2006. FROM DRIVER’S SEAT, THE LEFT SIDE VIEW MIRROR IS ONLY PARTIALLY VISIBLE! I SHOWED THIS TO HBL DEALERSHIP IN TYSONS CORNER VIRGINIA, AND THEY AGREED TO THIS DESIGN ISSUE, WHIC CANNOT BE FIXED, EVEN IF IT IS A SAFETY HAZARD…THE BEST REMEDY IS TO SHUT OFF THE AC DUCTS ON BOTH DRIVER AND PASSGENGER SIDE! THIS IS THE RESPONSE I GOT, FOR PAYING HIGH PRICE FOR THIS EXPENSIVE CAR ” (11/03/06)
- “I like most people who feel badly let down by MB will never buy another car from them, I thought I was buying quality and reliabilty.” (07/27/06)
- “Like some other people, I decided I shall never buy or even hire a Mercedes car again.” (06/22/06)
- “Funny that I stumbled on your site googling MZB’s home office customer service…I should have learned my lesson the first time. I will never lease/own a Mercedes again. They do not stand behind their quality, or service. I hope people read this and take notes.” (05/26/06)
- “I’ve run an independent MB repair shop for over 20 years & believed in the quality of their cars…until now. I’m loosing customers left & right. I can’t, in good concious, recommend a new merecedes to my loyal customers, some have been with me since I started & wish to keep me as their mechanic.I am seriously thinking of switching to Lexus,since Mercedes stated this is the car it will try to get as good as by 2009.” (04/22/06)
There is no way that these stories could have affected that many people over such a long period of time in the off-line world.