American Lifestyles 2015: The Connected Consumer – Seeking Validation from the Online Collective - US - April 2015
“In a never-ending quest to buy the ‘best,’ consumers are looking to others’ opinions and experiences via online review sites to validate their choices – and to avoid feeling buyers’ remorse.”
“Constantly connected” is a phrase often used to describe American lifestyles. From sleeping next to a smart phone to checking messages the minute they wake up, the need to stay connected to work, family, and friends is well documented. Besides sharing photos and commenting on a status, people are looking for answers – and providing opinions – on everything from where to eat dinner (and what entrée to order), the auto dealership that gives the best service, to which shoes to buy (and how to score a discount). The collective intelligence of online review sites and Americans’ online networks has become consumers’ gut check on purchases, and many feel the need to get second opinions to validate their choices. Others are using their networks as a starting point in their buying process for bigger ticket items or in areas for which they lack expertise (eg technology, new vacation destinations).
As Americans seek input from others before buying (and offer their own opinions), the buying process is less individual, and purchases may ultimately reflect collective input from a variety of connections. In this way, for some categories, the connected collective may have a stronger influence than individual preference.
Opinion seeking before purchasing is more common among younger consumers than it is among older age groups. Greater comfort with technology and mobile device ownership are factors contributing to younger adults’ urge to seek information via review sites. In addition, many younger consumers have yet to establish routines for household purchases as they have not yet been in the position to be responsible for a household. As the Millennial and iGeneration strike out on their own and consider new product categories for the first time, product reviews and opinions from “people like me” will be especially influential.
Opinion seekers are more likely to indicate they are “spending more” on common consumer categories this year compared with prior years. And, since a majority agree they would pay more for a product or service that has positive online reviews, this supports that brands should monitor popular review sites to ensure their product or service is added to a consumer’s consideration set before they move forward with a purchase.
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