CX Science: experts are not the biggest influencers - novices are
Explicit endorsements ('I recommend this') are more persuasive than implicit ones ('This is a good product', 'I like it').
Novices are more likely to provide explicit recommendations compared to experts.
Hence, novices tend to be more persuasive than experts.
As customer experience drives word of mouth, the experience of novices impacts purchases through word of mouth more than the one of experts.
This poses a significant challenge, as novices are also less likely to realize the full value out of your product.
As a result, companies need to pay special attention to novices and help them derive the most value out of their products.
Word of mouth, and especially its online version, has become ubiquitous and is here to stay. Given the boom in online purchasing, we can expect its importance only to increase further.
Hand in hand with its growth in real-life, the research around (online) word-of-mouth is booming as well. Many studies have already investigated various aspects of it, such as whether the number of reviews matters more than their valence, whether abstract or concrete language is more persuasive, how the first reviews impact subsequent one, and many others.
In what follows, I offer you the insights from one of the most illuminating studies on the topic I've read to date, by two of the most prominent researchers in the field: Grant Packard and Jonah Berger. It is surely relevant for our business practice, but what's more, it offers interesting insights for our daily lives as well. Read on.
Packard and Berger started off by investigating a straightforward question: are reviews offering explicit recommendation, as in 'I strongly advise you to buy this product', are more impactful than the ones with implicit recommendation, as in 'I really liked this product'.
Sure enough, in a lab experiment explicit recommendations made people significantly more likely to "...believe they would enjoy the restaurant more and increased the chance they would choose to eat there" *. This is already insightful enough, as it means that if you want reviewers to have more impact, you can advise them or nudge them to use more explicit language.
But it gets better! Who do you think offers explicit recommendations more: novices or experts?
If you thought experts, you are wrong. "More knowledgeable consumers explicitly recommended books only 5.7% of the time, but this increased to 20.7% among less experienced consumers." * (this is based on real-life data from an online book retailer). You are reading this correctly. Novices, the people who you expect to have less experience and be more modest, actually provided strong recommendations 4 times more than experts.
Why so, you ask? Because novices, being inexperienced, do not take into account that other people's preferences might differ from theirs. From a novice's perspective, what they think is all there is, which makes them more prone to stronger judgements.
The result of all this is that novices actually have more impact on your sales than experts. Inexperienced consumers use stronger language in reviews, and stronger language is more impactful. Et voila, novices are a stronger driver of your sales than experts.
This, I believe, highlights the importance of working with consumers so they can realize the most value out of your product. You are unlikely to stop novices from explicitly recommending products, so that's perhaps not the best way to approach this.
What is in your control instead is how happy novices feel with your product or service, and because consumers are always co-creators of value - what value they get out of it. This is an especially daunting task, for novices are also less likely to have the skills and knowledge to maximize the value for them.
This is where you come in to help them. Make sure that you stay close to your consumers immediately after they purchase your product, guide them, hell - teach them if you must, just don't let them figure it out on their own. It pays off, both in terms of loyalty to you, and of spreading positive word of mouth.
My best wishes for a great day ahead!