Chek the Channels
How Americans Research and What it Means for Your Business
Ask Google how Americans conduct research, and it will return a whopping 352 million answers. That’s more than one answer for each American.
Expensive purchases, vacation, job moves, investments, college selection, and other big decisions usually involve research. Where do people in the U.S. turn for advice on making their important decisions? The Pew Research Center recently performed an extensive study on this subject. Pew is highly regarded for its objective public opinion polls and data-driven social science research.
The results are then shared to help uncover trends and to help support sound decision making. Not long ago, they concluded a study using 10,168 U.S. adults as part of a project on trust and research. The results of the study can be very useful as a basis to guide business marketing, personal branding, and sales of all types.
It comes as no surprise that a majority of people gather information themselves without reliance on others. A full 81% say they “do their own research” as their primary source for making major life decisions. This is near twice the percentage that say they rely heavily on family and friends, 43%. The survey uncovered that only 31% turn to “professionals” or “experts.” A small fraction totaling 15% of the survey group said they rely “a little” on their own research.
Of the combined 96% of respondents that said they rely on their own research to some degree, they were then asked to define what it is they do to gather trusted information. When answering this open-ended question, they cited many venues-- they typically started with the internet. However, the internet was not the be-all-end-all for personal research. Overall, 46% explained they turn to online sources, while 25% said they sought advice from others they know. Fewer still relied on prior education, followed by print media, and religious or instinctive decision-making. As the overlapping statistics imply, it is common for people to use multiple means to choose a course of action.
The non-multiple choice responses included trips to the library, discussions with friends and family, and through people with meaningful experience. Some of the respondents explained that they can find experts they trust online. Among those using online research, there were some that would not make a purchase or even go out to eat to a new restaurant without first reading a review. In fact, 98% of respondents said customer reviews and ratings made them feel “a little,” to “a lot,” more comfortable about a purchase.
Understanding the power of a review or rating helps people choose your business over alternative businesses. Even companies that get an “average” review should recognize that this could open your company to a higher level of consideration by 98% of those looking. Gaining trust plays a key role in businesses and the products they sell. Management should make sure they are doing all they can to manage toward this reality.