Online/Offline Word of Mouth Bibliography Ready for Review and Additions

More than a year ago, a group of WOMMA members got together, curious to answer the question, “What is the interaction between online and offline word of mouth?” We knew about the Keller Fay research pointing to the dominance of offline word of mouth and we were living through the social media revolution—personally and professionally. Our hypothesis was that offline word of mouth trickled online and social media found its way to face-to-face conversations.


Our search quickly revealed that few marketers had explored this question. We felt that we would do a great service to the larger WOMMA community by pulling together a bibliography of key studies and publications that explored this topic. In this document, you will find a broad range of studies, including:

·         Comparison of online and offline word of mouth (BzzAgent, Brains on Fire, Keller Fay, Peres and Shacha, S. Radoff)

·         Offline activities’ impact on social media and search behavior (Cheema, iProspect , Lauren F. Sessions)

·         Social media’s impact on offline consumer decisions (Chintagunta et al., Godes and Mayzlin)


In addition, we conducted a survey* among our members to see how they approached the topic and measured online/offline word of mouth. We found out that while they measure both types of conversations separately, a sub-set looks at the impact of online buzz on offline initiatives and vice versa. Among WOMMA members:

  • 45% measure online buzz to capture the impact of offline word of mouth campaigns
  • 35% measure offline marketing communications’ impact on online word of mouth about brands

We hope that as the word of mouth marketing field matures, marketers find innovative ways to track results across online and offline platforms, and refer to the studies included in our bibliography as guideposts.


I would like to thank Dr. Walter Carl, Brad Fay, Bithika Mehta, Martin Oetting, Tarah Remington, Jasper Snyder, and Jeanie Son for all their contributions and their ongoing dedication to the project. As the online/offline word of mouth committee, we also appreciate WOMMA’s academic advisors’ input.


We present you with the online/offline word of mouth bibliography and invite you to join our conversation. We welcome your feedback and additions.


*Survey results are representative of WOMMA’s member base, and should be used directionally when talking about the broader marketer universe.


** This post has also been published on WOMMA’s All Things WOM blog.

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Women Heavily Rely on WOM When Investing


According to the latest Info-Currents report Investment Conversations, based on the Large Purchase Study, there are stark differences in the way men and women make investment choices. Women rely on face-to-face conversations, while men are more likely to act based on their past experiences. Considering the combined effect of online and offline word of mouth, nearly six in 10 (56 percent) of women say they make investment product and service choices based on word of mouth, while only 32 percent of men do so. 



The study validates financial institutions’ programs geared towards female customers. It also suggests that companies prepared to answer women’s questions and assist with their review process to inform those peer-to-peer conversations will have a competitive advantage. 


To download a full copy of the Investment Conversations report, please click here






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The Word on Banking

The latest report from the Large Purchase Study shows that offline WOM is significantly more likely to influence banking-related purchases than online WOM. Yet, there is a twist in this all too familiar plot line. The impact of online word of mouth on banking product and service purchases has been significantly increasing over the past couple of years.  


Banks have a significant opportunity to grow their customer base and invest in long-term relations through online communications and marketing. The report shows that young adults and ethnic minorities, are more likely than their respective counterparts to listen to online buzz when choosing their banks.

As young customers get older and go through various life events and changes, they will need banks’ help with credit, mortgage and retirement products. They will continue to turn to their online sources. Banking brands that earn their trust today will have significant competitive advantages in the future to earn these customers’ business.

The latest census data pointed to significant growth in Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010. Considering the Hispanic population’s (especially the younger Hispanic segment’s) affinity for social media, banks that manage the word online and proactively communicate with Hispanic customers through social channels will stand a real chance with them. 

To download the full report and read more about the influence of word of mouth on banking-related purchases, click here.


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Gap Between Online and Offline Word of Mouth Narrows For Car Purchases

A study on large purchases made in the past five years confirms the impact of customer satisfaction and word of mouth on car purchases and brand choices. According to the Large Purchase study by S. Radoff Associates, about one-third of car purchasers in the past year said they were influenced by their past experience (35 percent) and face-to-face or phone communications with friends and family (30 percent) when making their car choice.

In the hierarchy of information sources that influence car purchases, offline word of mouth has a bigger influence on consumers than online word of mouth. Yet, the rising role of online word of mouth in closing car deals is a noteworthy trend. Over the past five years, online word of mouth sources (e.g., online reviews, blogs, social networks, forums, friend emails) have been increasingly influential in driving consumers’ car purchasing decisions and brand choices. Five years ago, one-fifth (20 percent) of consumers pointed to online word of mouth among the sources that shaped their decision. A year ago, more than one-quarter (26 percent) indicated that online word of mouth helped them choose and buy their car.

As car purchasers increasingly rely on online word of mouth sources, automotive brands need to be prepared to monitor and join online conversations. For car buyers experience is a fundamental decision factor. They assess their hands-on experience along with others’ experience in driving vehicles. Online marketing and communication initiatives that highlight positive consumer experiences and provide extended service to potential customers are bound to drive sales.

To read more about how various car purchaser segments (e.g., women, parents, young adults) make their buying decisions and brand choices, download the ebook What Drives Cars here.

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Study Shows Social Media Has More Impact Than Paid Media on Car and Technology Sales

S. Radoff Associates, a NY-based research company, just released a report about the impact of word of mouth on large-ticket item purchases. The results remove any shadow of doubt on word of mouth’s impact on tangible business results. And we understand that social media drives sales for considerable investments in cars and technology, not just CPG products.

The study delves into large purchases made in the past year and the information sources that shaped brand choices. The results show that one-half of consumers say word of mouth was a key influencer for car (50 percent), technology and electronics (49 percent) product choices they made in the past year.

We know from Keller Fay Group that much of word of mouth actually takes place offline. Interestingly, these two categories are pretty balanced in terms of their source of buzz. In fact, online and offline word of mouth were just as likely (29 percent, respectively) to influence technology and consumer electronics purchases.

Online reviews are at the source of online buzz. Consumers say online reviews influenced nearly one-quarter of technology and electronics purchases (24 percent) and 17 percent of car purchases made last year.

The most counterintuitive factoid from the study is that consumers are four times more likely to be influenced by social media than paid media for their car purchases made in the past year (21 percent vs. 5 percent). Social media has been more influential than paid media for technology purchases as well (26 percent vs. 7 percent).

Considering the typical budget spending on advertising vs. social media, these numbers signal the need to seek efficiencies in our integrated marketing plans for 2011 and beyond. Marketers planning for automotive and consumer electronics/ technology brands can shift dollars from traditional advertising budgets to social media and focus on elevating consumer opinions and customer experience. 

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