Think back to the last time you bought a product off the online shelves without having to sneak a quick look at the comments or reviews. We bet that you haven’t, and rightly so. There is nothing like that extra reliable voice whispering to assure you of an experience you expect. Lucky for you, this is what 61% of online Indian shoppers think too!
In the words of Misner (1999), word of mouth is “the world’s most effective, yet minimum comprehended promoting system. ” Break this quote down, and you realize that the use of WoM has played a vital role through the years, right into the information age.
What makes WoM such a lucrative choice among customers is that it has the power of persuasion by poking at a person’s most inherent attitude of seeking trustworthy recommendations. Content for WoM is primarily generated by regular consumers whose suggestions are most often based on their experiences. It is this factor of social behaviour that discounts it as a market strategy by a brand. Put simply, it is an action by one member of the society with the intention to recommend or warn for the welfare of another.
In terms of digital marketing, WoM has a dynamic role in its handout to social media marketing and Buzz marketing. Electronic WoM (eWoM), as it is called, are available in the form of reviews, recommendations, fashion hauls, unboxing videos, ASMR food reviews and product demonstrations, depending on your preferred source of an online platform. There are two kinds: Giving detailed information about the concerned product service and those that include opinions and pros/cons.
The latter is fascinating – both for marketers and consumers. Known as mixed neutral WoM (MNWoM), these kinds of reviews often provide a space, much like forums where online shoppers have the opportunity to compare products and services based on opinionated details.
These, over time, have enhanced the credibility of online reviews and positively affected online sales.
How, you ask? The internet space prides itself on having a larger ration of information giving than information looking. Thus, these channels check to approve market products that consumers want and increase their credibility and effectiveness of eWoM valence.
The brands themselves don’t make these channels. This is what makes it more approachable. The third-party websites and courses have proved to be a sort of community by itself through the backing between people who have never met.
An intriguing factor of credibility has also been the presence of negative WoM alongside the good ones. Consumer perceptions of authentic WoM are more often than not decided by the negative to positive proportion, lest they be seen as planted opinions by the company (if too many positive) or their competitors (if too many negatives).
However, it is essential to note that the point here is not to seek to drive sales but to enhance online purchase intention. The ‘intention’ here refers to consumer perception of the product that may eventually convert to a purchase.
Take, for example, unboxing videos on Youtube. Over the years, these videos have turned into a great deal owing to their content. Essentially, it is still WoM but with the added glamour of multimedia effects, an influencer personality and probably an informality of information dissemination.
It is easy, economical, and, most importantly, it isn’t fired down the consumer’s throat.
This means that there is good news and great news. If used smartly, the good news is that eWoM is a shimmering gold mine of content that can help build a strong brand.
The great news is that it is possible to incentivize content and analyze it to derive strategies and digital marketing campaigns that can enhance the purchase intention. An instance of this is the infamous KFC campaign that leveraged the hoard of negative sentiment and rage to deliver the FCK campaign by smearing page-long apology advertisements. Most recently, the company also took off its tagline ‘finger-lickin’ good’ following feedback from consumers, calling it irresponsible.
Therefore, online marketing efforts play an essential role in amplifying the effect of eWOM on community members’ online behaviour. In conclusion, a suitable eWoM campaign can thus amplify the positive impact of eWoM valence and content on purchase intention. This is mainly an excellent strategy for online Indian shoppers that increasingly rely on MNWoM for high involvement purchases.