Explain the impact of consumer Blogs and Reviews on Customer Purchase decision.
Understanding Buyer Journey
The premise of the essay here is to determine the impact of Blogs and customer reviews posted online in the purchase decision of the potential customers. There are no two thoughts that blogs and consumer reviews in the present day have a very strong hand to play in the buying behaviour of the consumers. The growing popularity of digital channels or Web 2.0 tools has turned the entire world into a big global village which is connected by one single link called as the “Internet”. Internet clubbed with the new technologies of the present world is driving the online ecosystem and influencing people’s perception and thoughts on what good or commodity has to be purchased (Strauss & Frost, 2016). In simple words, the Blogs and customer reviews have a direct impact on the buying behaviour of the customer. In the essay, it will be studied how exactly blogs and customers reviews impact the behaviour.
Buyer behaviour in the simplest of terms can be understood as the step by step approach a customer undergoes while entering the purchase process and eventually making the buying decision. This buyer journey can be easily broken down into four steps to give a detailed insight on which step does the blogs and customer reviews impact his buying behaviour. The first step in the buying behaviour is the Need Recognition; this is the point when the buyer feels a functional need or an emotional need to buy a particular product. This is the also the first stage for the marketers to step in the customer’s mind and create a need for the product, the company ensures this by world-wide campaigns both on the traditional and web 2.0 tools to make people aware of the product or service in the ecosystem(Cantallops & Salvi,2014). The second step, which is a very crucial stage in the buyer journey is the Information Search, this is the stage where markets have a very crucial role to play in influencing and impacting the customer to buy their product. Customer here looks out for the product they have kept their eyes on and also look for other alternatives in the same category. This is the stage where marketers influence the customer by providing him high targeted organic or inorganic content through digital channels including blogs. The marketers here create a strong brand proposition through the blogs written on the product by the industry experts or people who have a strong follower base on the social media. Thus, Internet helps the customer in conducting a detailed search on the product, his alternatives thus giving marketers to influence consumers strongly during this steps by the use of consumer blogs (Organic and inorganic) and customer reviews (Organic)(Erkans & Evans, 2016). The third step is the Customer and Purchase experience which is provided by the company to the customer in the sales process. Marketers in this step want to build customer loyalty by providing him best customer service and experience, thus it is very important part of the marketing strategy. Customer arrives at the decision and makes the purchase in the last step, this step is the resultant of all the information he collected from the internet, blogs, customer reviews. Social media channels, peer and colleagues and so on and finally decided to buy the product (Solomon, 2014).
Step 1: Need Recognition
(Source: Kim & Johnson, 2017)
The above image shows that the world with over an estimated population over 7 Billion has an Internet penetration of 50%, implying that over 3.773 billion people are actively using Internet to consume information and to help them in buying products online or offline. Although customer purchasing behaviour is a systematic process, but it is still seemed to be impulsive in nature as people do not invest a lot of time and rely heavily on what others are saying about the product, based on which they make their buying decisions(Pappas, 2017).
According to one of the recent study conducted by the marketing research agency Rauken, it was established that as many as 90% of the consumers read the reviews online before buying a product. The more amazing part here is that as much as 88% trust the reviews which are written on the Internet, and based on the reviews they make their purchase decision. However astounding it may sound but it is a hard fact to digest, it clearly implies the growing relevancy and importance of the customer reviews on the buying behaviour of customers. The customer review which are posted online have replaced the decade old tradition of people listening to their friends, families, peers or colleagues on a particular product. More than anything now they trust the people who have actually used the product or are some kind of expert for their reviews. Online community has become increasing important in the present day ,hence companies are putting efforts in building strong communities and brand advocates to increase the positive sentiments about the company’s product on the social media and digital media channels(Charlesworth, 2018).
E-commerce websites are playing a very crucial role here, by giving the power in the hands of the customer to rate and review the product; they are making it easier for the customer to make an informed decision before making a purchase. This way, the e-commerce giants are winning the trust of customers by providing them real time feedback of the product provided by the people who bought the product. In totality, everyone is coming out to help everyone, it is a concept of community building, and people post review online because they want others to benefit from the review and make an informed decision, and this is urging everyone to speak the true words on the product, thus creating the importance of community benefit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and big e-commerce companies like Alibaba and Amazon have understood the importance of community building and focussing their attention to further developing it for the benefit of the customers. Thus, a wave of disruption has been caused by the advent of customer review and blogs. The days have gone past when people used to go to a shopping mall and take the word of sales representative for buying the product, this has been completely and totally been replaced by the information available online via the people who have actually used the product or experts who have some accreditation and expertise in the product customer is interested into buying. Good customer reviews implies that the people who have purchased the product have really liked it, thus the chances of high sales of the product are maximum. Average to bad customer reviews online about a product is a direct implication that people will not be buying the product as easier in the earlier case, companies will have to give some hefty discount or deals to push the product in the market(Strauss, 2016).
Step 2: Information Search
Another study conducted by Neilson pointed that customers are willing to spend 31% more on the product which has received excellent reviews on the digital media channels, they give the reviews highest priority and do not mind in shelling some extra dollars to buy the product, and this clearly implies the underlying importance of customer reviews. Another finding of the study was that besides helping in increasing sales for the company, excellent positive review helps the company in creating brand loyalty, as many as 72% people trust in the company and believe on the product with positive reviews. Companies themselves have understood the importance of customer reviews and thus have create social listening team and customer success teams to monitor the conversation, engagement and the reviews on the online channels. The aim is to satisfy every single customer, address his concern and make him into a brand loyalist. CGC (Customer generated content) is the buzzword of the digital marketing industry, it implies that the content posted by the consumers organically will drive the buying behaviour of rest of the consumers worldwide, thus it clearly indicates that customer reviews have becoming increasingly important in the present day.
On the similar lines of customer reviews, blogs also play a very important role in influencing the customers in making their purchase decisions. The growing popularity of the bloggers or the blogging community started after the penetration of social media, and the usage of social media to boast the e-commerce sales. Another study conducted on the usage of blogs in the customer buying behaviour suggested that 8/10 online purchase happens after reading about the product or service on the Blog. The figure is astonishing, but it is a fact, prevalent use of social media, growth of e-commerce Company, and increasing digital literacy have made Blogs very important tool to inspire and influence the customers in making their buying decisions. The people who are writing the blogs are the early adopters or hobbyists who want to try the product before everybody else, these are the people with certain accredtion and recognition in the digital world which makes customers trust their words strongly. These bloggers have the responsibility of putting out the right word out in the market; else people would not follow their blogs which means no revenue for bloggers. Thus, this direct revenue linkage between the customers and the bloggers ensure that the material published in the blogs is genuine, however of the opinion of the blogger but still holds some value for the customers. Customer electronics, Smartphones, food and lifestyle product still remain the top categories for online buying, hence plethora of bloggers are rolling up their sleeves in trying as many products as possible and giving a true picture out in front of the customers. This win-win strategy between the buyers and the bloggers is of great benefit (Goodrich & DeMooij, 2014).
Step 3: Customer and Purchase Experience
Plethora of big internet companies, consumer electronics companies and other more players have started hiring bloggers to write organic content about the product. They hire these bloggers to try out the product before anyone else, take their feedback, make certain changes and push the bloggers content on the internet for information search by the customers. These bloggers have the ethical responsibility of bringing out the true picture of product to the consumers also because he acts as an influencer. He influences people in their purchase decision, thus customer relies heavily on his word on a particular product, and this added moral and ethical responsibility removes any biasedness from his product. Apple which is the world’s largest innovative and technology companies has 100,000s of bloggers writing about their product, either as a freelancer or as company representatives, these bloggers are the biggest brand loyalists of the company, thus driving a lot of sales for the Apple’s products. Companies across the world have realized the potential of these blogs and the way they can influence the buying journey of the customers by the usage of blogs. Hence are working on creating great utility value added products for the customers to enrich their usage experience and build positive brand advocacy on the online channels. Social listening is one important concept which helps the brands to identify how they are being perceived on the social media and according they can tweak their blogging content to drive positive sentiments influencing customers to buy their products(Kane, 2017).
Thus, to conclude the essay, it is no brainer that customer reviews and blogs are driving the purchasing decision of the buyers significantly. Their buying motives, information search and the buying decision is to a large extent based on the online review of the product on social media, e-commerce website and other marketing channels. Influencers who have gained popularity over the last couple of years are also playing their role in bringing out the true picture in detail about the product. This critical analysis and evaluation of the product thus helps the buyers in making the right informed decision. It is often said that “Customer is the King”, in the present day the saying has been tweaked to “Customers and Content are the King”.
Cantallops, A.S. and Salvi, F., 2014. New consumer behavior: A review of research on eWOM and hotels. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 36, pp.41-51.
Charlesworth, A., 2018. Digital marketing: A practical approach. Routledge.
Erkan, I. and Evans, C., 2016. The influence of eWOM in social media on consumers’ purchase intentions: An extended approach to information adoption. Computers in Human Behavior, 61, pp.47-55.
Goodrich, K. and De Mooij, M., 2014. How ‘social’are social media? A cross-cultural comparison of online and offline purchase decision influences. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(1-2), pp.103-116.
Kane, G. C. (2017). The evolutionary implications of social media for organizational knowledge management. Information and organization, 27(1), 37-46.
Kim, A.J. and Johnson, K.K., 2017. Power of consumers using social media: Examining the influences of brand-related user-generated content on Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, pp.98-108.
Pappas, N., 2017. Marketing strategies, perceived risks, and consumer trust in online buying behaviour. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 29, pp.92-103.
Solomon, M.R., 2014. Consumer behavior: Buying, having, and being (Vol. 10). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Strauss, J. and Frost, R.D., 2016. E-marketing: Instructor's Review Copy. Routledge.
Strauss, J., 2016. E-marketing. Routledge.