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.