Word of mouth has forever been a driving force in influencing consumer buying and behavior, and nowhere is it as wide-spread as with food-related decisions. While there are several determinants to food choices – culture, health, economics, lifestyle, to name a few – suggestions from friends and family certainly play a significant role in helping consumers make up their mind.
Today, mere information about the product/service doesn’t cut it. The most flashy, over-the-top advertising messages may not pique the consumer’s interest as much a simple ‘I liked it, you should try it, too’ from a trusted source will. Learning what real consumers of a product think about it has become easier than ever before with the internet. While those in close social circles were the traditional agents of influence, the internet provides a wider network of ‘go-to’ individuals for suggestions – everyone from friends, acquaintances, celebrities, public role models to even absolute strangers from across borders can now sway a consumer’s opinion. It makes sense, too. A search here and a quick look there can yield hundreds of thousands of results in a matter of seconds. Everything from recipes to restaurant reviews and product samplings are freely available with an effortless click – why wouldn’t consumers flock to it?
As global boundaries and distances continue to rapidly shrink with advanced communications technology, the power of online recommendation will be further amplified, most notably through social networks. This will in effect influence already evolving consumer behaviors around food, more so than at present.