The Most Trusted Form of Advertising
Word of Mouth has been a staple in marketing traditions and has proven consistently to be a very effective means of building a brand presence. This would include things like people spreading information and experiences of your product or service to friends, family or colleagues which would then ultimately infiltrate their peers, and their peer’s peers. This is still a hugely successful way to get your brand out there as seen in a report by Nielsen, that found across each generation of consumer (i.e. Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers & Silent Gen), recommendations from people they knew was found to be the most trusted form of advertising. This suggests that it is well worth the time encouraging customers to spread the word about their experiences with your business. As the relatively newcomer, electronic word of mouth (eWOM) gives businesses the ability to pump up the scale of WOM efforts to not only close friends and family, but rather a larger internet community.
Essentially, eWOM encapsulates the action of spreading a particular message to a wider audience through the internet, and when I say wider audience I mean hundreds and potentially thousands. This is because social channels make it very easy for people to share information and gather suggestions and feedback all in an instantaneous fashion. In particular, the most popular forms of eWOM can come from blogs or articles, videos, reviews and private messaging.
What are the benefits?
All the resources required to pull off successful WOM / eWOM are practically free. Access to and the ability to create content on social media channels mostly doesn’t cost a penny. And if you are able to engage your customers with your content, products and brand then they can essentially do all your marketing for you – So long as you provide a high quality product and service that gives them a reason to promote you. The resources that would have normally gone into creating and implementing your marketing campaigns can then be redirected into continually improving your product, which can give customers a reason to promote and share.
Know what your customers think about you
Knowing that your WOM is quite prevalent amongst your customers can give you an indication as to how well you are satisfying customer needs. If there is a high rate of positive WOM or eWOM, it can suggest that your business is providing captivating experiences and products that gives them something to boast about. Customers don’t usually actively promote something unless it has brought them some sort of significant value or meaning (especially when this is done on their own accord without any encouragement).
Can very rapidly build a strong brand presence
The ultimate goal of branding is creating brand associations with particular buzz words, products or experiences. As mentioned earlier, WOM is the most trusted form of advertising, so there is no better way to spread your brand awareness. The more you are able to generate conversation and hype over your brand, the higher the likelihood that you will be able to own some real estate in the consumer’s mind and stay at the forefront of their thoughts. So the next time customers are thinking of a cafe with an aesthetic interior, or a restaurant with good customer service for dinner, your business will be the first thing to appear in their head.
Help customers stay well informed
Now more than ever, people are becoming a lot more informed on products and brands with the wealth of knowledge they have access to. This can be through their peers and social groups or websites, reviews, pictures, videos and social media. So with people being so information hungry, WOM, and in particular eWOM can help fill that void.
Potential downsides of WOM & eWOM
As with anything, there are always aspects that needs to be considered on the other side of the spectrum where WOM & eWOM can have some drawbacks.
More so prevalent with tradition WOM, tracking the consumer journey can be quite difficult as a lot of it happens in personal spaces and conversations. Realistically the only way to gather information is by asking incoming customers what they have heard about your business and where it came from. This however is not fully inclusive of every mention that you have had, because incoming customers would mostly be the recipients of positive messages. eWOM on the other hand is more widely trackable through third-party software (e.g. Mention or Google Alerts) that allows you to monitor your brand mentions and create strategies around it.
Just as positive WOM & eWOM can be hugely beneficial for your business, the negative variant can be just as impactful to your brand image in a detrimental way. The nature of WOM makes it difficult for businesses to rectify a customer’s issues unless it is explicitly communicated to them, largely resulting in issues or concerns that remain unaddressed. As with eWOM, it can hugely accelerate the momentum of negative associations and connotations if undetected and unaddressed for a prolonged period of time. Although hard to control, what your business can control is ensuring your product or service is great from the get-go, and if there is ever the case of negative WOM then attempting to address these issues and concerns as quickly and openly as possible can go a long way in repairing the damage.