The decision to purchase by a consumer is at the mercy of many factors and belief ranks high up there with them. Be it through company adverting or online reviews, the creation of brand awareness, and attraction of new customers is more or less at the center of any business's daily schedule and this makes more companies look for ways of enhancing consumer beliefs. As a matter of fact, more and more companies are looking to establish with absolute certainty what aspect of the above mentioned is more believable to customers. As such the following question begs: which is more believable to customers? Company advertising or online reviews? There are different facts in this regard, and this paper will outline some of the views that have been put across in association with the above-mentioned forms of marketing in a bid to establish where the customers stand. To answer this question adequately, the following needs to answered: To what extent do consumers depend on either advertising or online reviews when making decisions about their products?
Company advertising utilizes many avenues- from traditional to digital to mobile to social media- taking advantage of the marketing communication means of audio or visual in promotion or sale of a product by a business. Company advertising takes various forms currently: advertisements on TV, brand sponsorships, ads in newspapers and magazines, billboards, radios, TV program product placement among others. Worryingly, a few analysts have expressed that when it comes to advertising, people will always look at it with a jaded eye despite the various mediums available. According to a study conducted by a research firm named Lab 42, 76% of the interview population expressed that company advertising is generally "very exaggerated" or "somewhat exaggerated."
Further, in a rather particular industry, 87%of the respondents were in agreement that more than half of cleaning advertisements are photoshopped. Besides, in an area that continues to be a part of advertising in the media concerning food products, 96% of respondents expressed that over 50% of weight-related advertisements are photoshopped. These figures are emphasized by the study conducted by the BBB in 2013 outlining the perceptions of customers as per the claims made in ads. Only 3 percent attested to ads being accurate, 19% agreed that ads are very exaggerated, with 21% and 57% expressing that ads were somewhat correct and exaggerated respectively.
Online reviews, hugely constituted by the opinions of consumers posted online, has been on the rise over the years with some studies putting forth that more and more customers are relying on the earlier mentioned before making purchase decisions. This has been further contributed to by the recent shift to online shopping by customers. According to a Nielsen online survey carried out in 2013, 68% of the respondents in the inquiry suggested that they trusted consumer opinions posted online (Nielsen.com, 2017). Again, millions have been lured into areas that offer reviews to products for the promise of honesty, trustworthy opinions that is promoted by the online platforms. A report of a survey conducted by power reviews bearing the title The Power of Reviews outlined that approximately 94% percent of shoppers seek reviews despite having come across company advertising in their purchase journey with 86% believing that online reviews are a fundamental aspect of the process of decision-making. Regardless, the danger of manipulations by businesses in an attempt to look good looms (Nielsen.com, 2017).
Belief in whatever form of marketing is highly influenced by the amount of information on offer by the kind of marketing in question. In comparison, online reviews offer more information to customers as compared to company advertisements that mainly dwell on the catch from phrase to entice customers in the event the name of the brand is not too huge. An approval of a stranger who seemingly has very little to gain apart from the use of the product is more believable than the word of a company who is not only after promoting the product or brand but also looking to making a profit for the entity.
A significant shift from the traditional platform of shopping to the online platform has contributed hugely to this change where it can be safely said that customers believe the online reviews than the company advertising. Online searches are more than ever integrated into our daily lives and this is evidenced by the over trillion searches processed by Google in 2014. This demonstrated the level of reliance people have on online review. There has been a prevalence of review sites on search results for brands and products, and an understanding of this points to how these reviews impact consumers in decision making. The major question asked in the Google review was "when making a major purchase such as an appliance, a smartphone, or even a car, how important are online reviews in your decision making?"
There are various reasons attributed to this shift in customer belief in the marketing scene. First, certain commodities have time and time again warranted the second opinion, and therefore customers will not readily fall for what the company advertises. The most affected are the following areas: home services, restaurants, hotels and high priced items. Google. Inc (2017) posits that on overall, 54% of shoppers will not willingly withdraw their wallets without consulting with the reviews posted in different platforms online. In fact, 70% of customers accounted that they were more likely to buy a product if the online review platform they were using provided access to product reviews. This indicates that initial advertising by a company plays a little part in determining whether or not a customer will resort to purchasing a product.
Second, it is conceivable to say that consumers believe online reviews because there are significant believable Consumer reviews (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers hugely taking the form of advertisements, according to a study of US internet users carried out by online video review site EXPO. Third, online reviews have an advantage over company advertising about the availability of both negative and positive reviews (Greenslade, 2017). This implies that consumer trust will be improved considerably by the negative opinions they read as it acts on credibility. By highlighting the flaws to a product credibility is optimized. Fourth, the manner in which larger public firms control public opinion significantly the flaws of a product through the online reviews lowers the amount of belief that is derived from the customers from the advertisings owing to the amount of money that is spent on such. Some consumers take unfairness and negative view in company advertising due to this as they purport dishonesty.
Fifth, it is hard to overlook the fact that company advertisements are also doing a lot that enhances the beliefs of the customer in the information they offer towards making a purchase decision. These include the provision of evidence of materials that have been used in coming up with certain products, the performance evidence encompassing the achievements related to the use of the product and test evidence. Other aspects of the customer belief system that is normally worked up by company advertising thus making the numbers that will take the word of the advisors are, to start with, the use emotional ideas. Some user's customers find this more appealing as it touches on the perceived ways that the product will improve a person's life as opposed to an explanation of its features by the online reviews.
Unlike company advertising, online reviews provide consumers with a sense of engagement- referred to as customer engagement- between them and the products. This is more pronounced in the latter than in the former. The availability of online review demonstrates the intensity of an individual's participation in and connection with an organization's offerings and organizational activities, which either the customer or the organization initiate. This leaves it more believable than company advertising. Lastly, by advertising companies leave customers with a single option of comparing products based on the wordings of the advertisements, some resorting for the prices range under the notion that ‘you get what you pay for' (King, Racherla& Bush, 2014). Online reviews have turned the tables by giving users a myriad of information sources most notably the peer-to-peer information and the unprecedented availability of expert point of view. Power is exerted by existing customers onto future customers. Come to think of it, what is more, believable between a catch-phrase and an opinion of a real user (Google. Inc 2017)?
Despite the facts as mentioned earlier, the question of what is believed more by customers between company advertising and online reviews remains a hard one considering that the question of what is real and what is fake engulfs both platforms of marketing (King, Racherla& Bush, 2014). There have been instances where regulating bodies have accused online review sites of misleading the masses. A case example is when the Advertising Standard Authority in Britain alleged that TripAdvisor was misleading its consumers into believing that a majority if not all of its reviews were genuine i.e. were posted by real travelers. To this effect, there's a certain fraction of the populace that expresses differing sentiments towards online reviews. At the same time as they express the reliance on reviews, only 13 percent of consumers believe reviews are "very reliable." In particular, they're wary of business owners. Some 89 percent are privy to the notion that businesses write demeaning, “reviews of competitors and 91 percent think business owners post fake, positive reviews of their businesses” (Olenski, 2017). Regardless, it is evident that with the craze around online shopping a lot more customers will be utterly reliant on online reviews and constantly believe in it owing to the range of information it provides to the consumer.
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