WOM, word of mouth has long been a powerful force in the making (and breaking) of products and companies. As the force has moved online to become known as eWOM marketers have struggled to understand the dynamic it plays in the material affect on their sales. A culprit in perpetuating this struggle is the monolithic view of social media that serves as the proxy for eWOM among many.
“A Meta-Analysis of Electronic Word-of-Mouth Elasticity” in The March 2015 Journal of Marketing, provides a great deal of insights into the phenomena of eWOM. As we contemplate the results, there are some things we could derive based on our experience with current customers, our sales process and our ongoing dialogue within the industry. In other words, common sense is finally backed up by analysis.
Durability and Trialability are two key attributes for the impact of social media. As the former increases and the latter decreases, the need for deep information from credible sources becomes increasingly important. If the consumers keep the item for a long time and they don’t have the ability to try it before they buy it, they dig deep into the available resources.
A key component of the information they want is expert in depth analysis. Reviews that say “Great Car! I loved it.” are not very helpful. The consumers are seeking information from authoritative sources, experts or consumers who express details about their experience.
The research efforts of the consumers during the purchase process are intended to mitigate knowledge risk. The more costly the items, the more valuable the incremental knowledge becomes. Thus, consumers will spend a great deal of time researching durable goods.
The implications for marketers extend to the pre and post purchase with eWOM.
For durable goods, marketers need to identify authoritative third party sources and ensure they have the right / best information. They can’t be bought, but they can be educated. Providing one “authority” with access and a “trial” with the product can directly influence thousands of potential buyers. Marketers need to identify the authorities in their area, monitor them and educate them and their audiences. Of course, this assumes a quality product and service to start with.
Post sales support needs to be strong and obvious. Reviews, publicly requested service inquiries (twitter “help line” for example) need fast and valuable responses. Private requests need equal attention to ensure they do not become public issues.
For durable goods, marketing resources need to be prioritized to mitigate knowledge risk for potential buyers. While cute social games, contests and share-fests are fun and can build communities, this activity should be second to building the experts’ product familiarity, in depth reviews and clear post purchase support. It is not the number of mentions that count, but the value those mentions have to potential buyers.