Is third-party content more effective in generating online sales?
With customers increasingly relying on customer ratings and reviews to guide purchasing decisions, has information from manufacturers and retailers become less important?
A study from Johns Hopkins University finds manufacturers are scaling back and posting less product information on their own sites because of the proliferation of websites, online forums, apps and other digital platforms that offer information about retail products and services. The brands are said to benefit from lower advertising costs as they avoid the production of expensive graphics and videos.
The study authors suggest that information on “fit” — such as whether a camera lens is effective both indoors and out or if a keyboard clicks softly or loudly during typing — should come from manufacturers while “infomediaries” should only verify or correct the companies’ claims about their products.
“In this way, the infomediaries can provide a valuable service to consumers,” said
Ravi Aron, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, in a press release. “In the process, any incentives that manufacturers have to free ride on infomediaries will vanish and they will provide more relevant information, to the benefit of consumers.”
On the other hand, studies show consumers placing higher value on seemingly unbiased third-party reviews while having low levels of trust in marketing material.
Among some studies:
- BrightLocal’s 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
- According to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Lithium Technologies, online sites with product reviews (Amazon, Yelp, etc.) were trusted by 85 percent by younger generation respondents (Gen Z/Millennials) and 66 percent of older generations (Gen X/Boomers). Company/manufacturer websites were trusted by 66 percent of younger generations and 44 percent of older generations.
- A 2014 survey from Ipsos found that 68 percent of Millennials trusted information from user-generated peer reviews versus 64 percent for professional/industry reviews (CNET, etc.) and 49 percent for company websites.
- Product Review Websites Try to Help but Actually May Harm Consumers, According to New Research by Johns Hopkins University Business Professor – Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
- Product Information Websites: Are They Good for Consumers? – Journal of Management Information Systems
- Local Consumer Review Survey – BrightLocal
- 74 Percent of Digital Natives Tired of Brands Shouting at Them – Lithium Technologies
- Social Influence: Marketing’s New Frontier – ISPOS
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retail or brand websites steer browsers toward user-generated or internal content for product information? Has information from manufacturers and retailers become less relevant or helpful?