Whispering to someone AdvertisingCustomers have so much control these days that CRM, CX, and loyalty marketers need to tailor their efforts with this top of mind. Marketers that monitor social media and user comments might be ahead of the game by leveraging that customer feedback and transforming them into brand loyalty.

New research shows that the impact of “consumer word of mouth” in six diverse categories−including online and offline consumer conversations and recommendations−account for 13% of consumer sales, on average, which represents $6 trillion in annual consumer spending. In higher price-point categories, word of mouth’s impact is almost 20% of sales.

The study, which was organized by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), was based on sophisticated econometric modeling of sales and marketing data provided by participating brands on a confidential basis. Analysis was conducted by Analytic Partners, an independent analytics consultancy and recognized leader in marketing analytics.

Here are some key takeaways from the study:

Offline and online word of mouth are both strong purchase drivers, with offline accounting for two-thirds of sales and online accounting for one-third.

Researchers found that an offline word-of-mouth impression drives at least five times more sales than a paid advertising impression, and much more (as much as 100 times more) for higher-consideration categories. A similar finding for online word of mouth requires more comprehensive data on impressions and/or mentions, which are not yet publicly available.

Word of mouth’s impact happens closer to the time of purchase than traditional media—often within two weeks.

“Intuitively, we know that a consumer recommendation is going to be a powerful contributor to brand sales, but this is the first time a rigorous study has quantified that impact across a range of product and service categories,” WOMMA President Suzanne Fanning said in a release. “We hope this research will lead marketers to elevate the role of word of mouth, both online and offline, in their marketing plans.”

Alice K. Sylvester of Sequent Partners, WOMMA’s consultants for the project, said this study revealed the first public demonstration of the measurement of word of mouth sales effectiveness.

“The study has shown how WOM can be incorporated into marketers’ econometric models and managed with the same level of knowledge as advertising and promotion,” Sylvester said.

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