Rural Lifestylers and the Influence of Online Reviews

Mark Smither
April 30, 2013

As marketers, we know that people pay attention to online reviews, communities, chat boards, social media and the like. It’s been researched. But just how much attention are they paying? How influential is digital chatter when it comes to making a major purchase? These are important questions to know the answers to because it helps us decide how much weight to put behind online communities.

So in February and March of 2013, Paulsen conducted an online survey of 500 rural acreage owners who had recently made a major purchase for their property. Then we measured how online reviews and testimonials from peers and experts impacted their decisions.

What we discovered was interesting. First we learned that online reviews are important, but not to everyone. Only 9.1 percent of those questioned gave online reviews the highest score in terms of influence. 42.3 percent however, gave online reviews or testimonials the lowest score on the influence scale.

We also learned that rural lifestylers trust the opinions of their peers to different degrees. Again, we see that approximately one-quarter of the respondents ranked peers and experts as least important. This might suggest that a certain percentage of rural lifestylers are skeptical of all online reviews—no matter the source. Conversely, over half the respondents indicated that they relied on or trusted online reviews from experts at least to some degree.

What does this all mean for online marketing? Read our full thought paper to find out.