Intrusion, Engagement, Trust and Conversion


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We love statistics—especially if they agree with our perspective. As a statistics professor of mine was fond of saying, “statistics will admit to anything if you torture them long enough.”
With that in mind I am going to use some numbers to push a position forward.
The numbers are from a Nielsen survey of 26,486 internet users.
78% said they trust the recommendations of other consumers.
Only 34% or less said they trust search engine ads, online banner ads or trust text ads to mobile phones.

What’s up? The ads are intrusive, they push their agenda on the consumer whether the agenda is to the relevant to the prospective customer or not.
In contrast, people who read reviews are already actively mentally and emotionally involved. Their engagement signals a high degree of relevance and the motivation to reach a decision. Also, they are looking for information they find meaningful, not what some advertiser thinks is meaningful or valuable.
Here’s a personal story to illustrate the distinction.

Recently I was looking for a hotel room in Washington, DC. I had a budget in mind and wanted the hotel to be convenient to the meeting site. I used online listings to come up with a short list. The hotel that was sure to meet my quality expectations was at the upper end of my budget. Several others were attractive from a price perspective but the hotel description and lower star rating left me wondering if I would regret choosing one of them.
One of them had two customer reviews. Both were less than a 3 on a 5 point scale yet they lead to an immediate decision to book a room. Both reviews said the rooms were okay but a little worn. Here’s what did it for me. “Walking distance to the coffee houses and restaurants of Dupont Circle.” “Didn’t spend much time in my room, but enjoyed the energy of Dupont Circle.”
I bought into the experiential variables that were most important to me.


  1. True…a large number of purchase decisions are being influenced by what other consumers have to say.
    Food for thought…..
    Does this also mean that an average consumer trusts another consumer more than he trusts what a company ad says about it’s product OR is it just a matter of a vehicle for an easy, speedy and convenient decision.

    Does this mean that the emotional kinship perceived with another consumer, who appears to be in the same boat outweighs the efforts of a company towards striking an emotional chord with the consumer through a series of advertsing campaigns/customer loyalty/engagement programs etc. etc.?

  2. Vandana

    Early research shows that customer communications are both more often used AND more influential than corporate communications.

    For example, the CapGemini CarsOnline survey shows that the most used sources of information by customers when buying a new vehicle are the Internet, Friends & Family followed by Print Ads. And the most influential sources of information for customers are Friends & Family, the Auto press followed by the Internet.

    In sharp contrast to this, the automotive industry thinks that the most used sources of information by customers are the Internet, Dealer Ads followed by TV Ads. And the most influential sources of information for customers are TV Ads, Friends & Family followed by Print Ads.

    As if getting the order wrong wasn’t bad enough, the industry hugely over-estimates how widely used and how influential their own marketing communications to customers are too.

    As you can see, the automotive industry is a long way adrift from their customers. And it shows in their marketing.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  3. Vandana & Graham,

    Vandana, I think you are asking important questions but I also think we need to shift from thinking about the average customer to powerful trends that can cause customers to shift quickly. One metaphor that comes to mind is that we are in the wash between two waves. Things are not always consistent across everyone and every situation. However, as the new wave behavior increasingly takes hold many traditional companies will be left behind. I am sure each of us could come up with examples of where this has already happen.

    Graham, I agree that communities are beginning to dominate. Earlier in 2007 it was common for think leaders to say that ‘content was king’. It think we are now seeing signs that ‘content’ is the ante to get in the game, ‘communities’ that help make sense and meaning out of the context are king.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D., Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

  4. John

    Your comment about being in the trough between two waves reminds me of John Reed’s paper on That Sneaky Exponential—Beyond Metcalfe’s Law to the Power of Community Building. In the paper, Reed sets out exactly what you suggest, the move from a broadcast world where content was king, to a peer-to-peer world where having the most members is king, to a community world where the best platform facilitation is king.

    Great minds think alike.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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