The boom in user-generated content online is fuelling a growth in word-of-mouth marketing in the UK, according to new research.

Findings from research firm eMarketer show that consumers are increasingly buying products recommended by friends.

With a recent rise in the popularity of of social networking sites, blogs and video sharing websites such as YouTube, word-of-mouth is becoming a more valuable marketing tool than ever before.

Some 79 per cent of online retailers surveyed reported that the main benefit of consumer-generated ratings and reviews was that they improved site conversion rates.

Improved customer retention and loyalty was seen as a key benefit by 73 per cent of respondents, while 59 per cent said that the consumer-generated activity could also lead to better search engine optimisation.

Research by the Institute for Business Management reveals that 17 per cent of adults in the UK who use social networking sites do so because they like to participate with brands of their preference.

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