Nader | 1:58 pm |

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Why do we buy what we buy? It’s a complex question about the psychology of economy and it’s not an easy one to answer. emarketer recently had an interesting post that explores how consumers utilize word-of-mouth recommendations vs. bloggers or chat room recommendations when deciding what to buy. Contrary to the post’s conclusion, I was surprised to find that I’m more likely to take recommendations and buy a product based on information from an on-line community. Strangers trump friends? Shopping Mall Crowd

While I personally do seek out and listen to referrals from friends or colleagues rather than a random blog post, I typically tap into The Wisdom of Crowds mentality.  The Wisdom of Crowds is a book exploring the theory that information in groups leads to decisions that are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.  The book has a great anecdote from the 1800’s describing how a crowd accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged.  Statisticians at the time were amazed to find that the average was closer than every individual estimate and also closer than any of the separate estimates made by cattle experts. 

I tend to use this method frequently for making purchases online. For example, when searching for software, I noticed that the first pieces I’d research to potentially purchase were ones that had lots of reviews.  My assumption was that if the software was good, people would be compelled to post a review or comments. But under that assumption, I ended up reading pages and pages of reviews and comments. Now, I look for products that have the most reviews posted. Then I only read the top three or four positive and negative reviews. It’s a quantity vs. quality issue and now I can typically buy a product in five or ten minutes just by leveraging the popularity of the product as well as user generated reviews. 

Mobile devices are invaluable for making (or dissuading) on-the-spot purchases when you go shopping at a brick-and-mortar store.  Not only can you access information anywhere, you can tap into a variety of review communities as well as use the info easily due to advances in the mobile user interface presentation layer.

 So talking to friends and relatives about a purchase is fine…but tapping into a rich on-line community might help you reach your ultimate purchasing goal whether it’s to find the best product, perfect features or a great value. Don’t forget the “time is money” factor. Try out the “crowd” method the next time you’re comparison shopping and I guarantee you’ll save valuable minutes, or even hours.

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