Consumer trust in reviews and brand websites


Computerworld reported yesterday on the results of a global Nielsen study into trust on the web.  There are a lot of interesting nuggets in the article, but my favourites are the following:

  • 90% of internet consumers worldwide now trust recommendations from people they know
  • 70% trust consumer opinions posted by people they don’t know
  • 70% trust brand websites

All three of these are on the increase. It is unsurprising that as the number of reviews proliferate and the world becomes more comfortable with eCommerce generally that trust in personal recommendations is increasing – so this is welcome news, but perhaps not that surprising.

I was, however, surprised to learn that trust in brand websites is increasing. This might be because advertisers have reacted in the right way to consumer opinions, that would make sense to me, and is also what Jonathan Carson, President of Online, International, at Nielsen is saying:

However, we see that all forms of advertiser-led advertising, except ads in newspapers, have also experienced increases in levels of trust and it’s possible that the CGM revolution has forced advertisers to use a more realistic form of messaging that is grounded in the experience of consumers rather than the lofty ideals of the advertisers.

And the stuff that from a trust point of view isn’t working so well?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, text ads on mobiles (24% of us trust these), online banner ads (33%), online video ads (37%), and search engine ads (41%).  Clearly the money is where the trust isn’t – perhaps this is inevitable.


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  • Trust is the key in ligitimising recommendations or reviews of any sort; thats why we beleive Trust Network technology is going to be hugely important in the coming years. A recent Telegraph story touched upon the issues of lack of trust in traditional review and recommendation services and the BBC also recently highlighted the issues surrounding the traditional review process

    Trust of brands or trust derived from a non-calculated process (ambiguous trust if you like) is of course more complex but equally subjective. Its difficult to measure and for brands, the increased engagement via social software may well have impacted the relationship with the customer – both for better and worse. I recently complained about @disqus, whom within minutes had responded (even the founder responded). I've known people to Twitter @virginatlantic and get a resolution. However, I tweeted @O2 twice and got no response, which has only made me even more furious than I was already.

    For advertising the key word has to be clarity of message but also being candid about where the message came from, why you received it – being able to audit trail marketing back and making it easy for me to unsubscribe … all the obvious falling-off-a-log stuff which every marketeer knows but fails 9 times out of 10 to impliment… Here endeth the lesson 😉

  • Hi Nic,

    '70% trust consumer opinions posted by people they don’t know' – I wonder how long this specific trend will continue. If more and more reviews (positive and in some cases negative) are written by PRs, marketing departments, business owners etc, it's not going to take that long before consumers mark this % down. Personally, I'm also finding consumer generated reviews increasingly polarised so I've gone back to 'professional reviews', information provided by the brand (the other 70% above) or personal recommendations for info on buying/visiting places (the 90%).

  • Hi James – my sense is that there is less gaming the system rather than more these days, but I might be wrong, and if I am this trend will reverse pretty quickly, as you point out.

  • Tks Andy. As you say, some brands will rise to the challenge of social media and others will fail because they don't. I imagine it was the same with television fifty years ago. One of the opportunities for start-ups is to help brands adapt to the new world.

  • Paid blog reviews are also still a powerful and trusted way for brands to start the marketing buzz and address their targeted audience the most effective way.

  • True for now – not sure they will stand the test of time though

  • Yes, and why not use the opportunities as long they are available? When this one vanish an other one will emerge. That's how it goes. 🙂

  • True enugh

  • Nic,

    If you see, I call it, crowd generated spam, on Twitter, this will cause a reduction in the % of people who trust their “friends” …


  • Hello Nic, I have just retweeted your post. But it looks like that you did not change, within the plugin configuration, from the defoult: @tweetmeme to your twitter name.

  • Nic,

    If you see, I call it, crowd generated spam, on Twitter, this will cause a reduction in the % of people who trust their “friends” …


  • This would be the negative scenario…

  • Thanks Dragan – i will update it

  • You are welcome. Check out my blog, maybe you will find some interesting info to retweet 😉

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