New research to help better understand how families are socially influenced when making purchasing decisions has been carried out by Different Size Feet, a new specialist family unit of global word of mouth agency 1000heads.
The research, which sampled over 1,000 parents aged between 25-44, looked into family purchasing decisions across six main product categories for UK families which included automotive, domestic appliances, food and drink, health and beauty and family leisure.
The research found that parents were spending, on average, 14 hours a week of their personal time on the internet, six of these on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
However, despite the enormous presence of parents on social networking sites it was revealed that this activity failed to have a significant impact on purchasing decisions when compared to offline conversation with friends and family, as only one per cent of parents cited social networks as a key social influence when considering purchases. Moreover only seven per cent put advertising as a key influencer, with this mainly being driven by the food and drink category.
Offline conversation with friends was by far the most influential source across the product categories tested with 26 per cent of parents putting this top, closely followed by conversation with partners – cited by 18 per cent as a factor.
Carrie Grafham who heads up Different Size Feet and has over a decade of family marketing knowledge, said, “Nowadays social networking sites are an important aspect of people’s daily online visits – mums being one of the highest user groups. However, in spite of 17% following more than 6 brands on Facebook, the impact of social networking sites on their purchasing decisions is often overstated.
“Our research aimed to understand the influence of social interactions on family decision making. What it found was that, in spite of the amount of time spent online by people, offline conversation with friends and family, rather than social media, was still the most influential, regardless of product category. ”
Other online sites frequently visited by parents, according to the research, included shopping or auction sites (44.5 per cent); video sharing sites, such as YouTube (28 per cent); online media players (26.5 per cent) and money saving and group deal sites (21 per cent).
However, it was revealed that only 12 per cent of parents visited brand websites. In addition, online reviews were found to be less influential than offline conversation, with it only featuring as a core influence in domestic appliances (31 per cent) and holidays (18 per cent).
Grafham says, “The relatively high number reading reviews for domestic appliances is largely down to the importance of functionality over image, and the infrequent purchase cycle, leaving few friends or family members in a position to advice on current products. Similarly, while we found friends and work colleagues influence the choice of holiday locations, reviews are heavily relied on when choosing accommodation – simply because there is a much smaller pool of offline contacts with specific experience to draw on’.
“However, in spite of this, we feel there are opportunities for dedicated review sites within the automotive , food and beauty categories, which could be better tailored to identify and resonate with different consumers and their needs – the clear driver behind the power of conversation with friends.”
Further findings from the Different Size Feet research indicated that special interest blogs and forums were becoming more mainstream reading for parents and are now potentially more influential than parenting blogs and forums which are increasingly being used by major brands to promote their products. 24 per cent of parents claim to have visited a special interest blog over a week, and 21 per cent a specialised forum, with fathers being the ones driving this trend (31 per cent).
This was compared to just 11 per cent for a parenting blog and 14 per cent for a parenting forum. Therefore parenting specific sites were considered to be only half as influential.
Grafham says, “In terms of online influence, there is a need for marketers to be focusing their efforts on identifying and engaging perceived experts in their fields, while Mum bloggers eager to develop brand relationships would be advised to develop a specialist interest both to attract brands and widen their influence beyond other Mum bloggers.
“There is a clear role for Mum bloggers should they wish to create relationships with brands – but they perhaps need to create more niche interest blogs and focus on long-term partnerships with one or two very relevant brands that they are passionate about. This prevents reader fatigue when faced with a lot of product reviews, and also increases their credibility in the eyes of brand and consumer.”
The study also identified six broad consumer personality types amongst parents, profiled on how, where and at what point in the decision making process they are influenced on and offline. Whilst many studies have looked at the role of the influencer, this is the first study to look at the behavioural response of consumers to this influence.
Different Size Feet have identified these personality types as Considereds, Experts, Validators, Frugals, Child-Centred and Spontaneous. The behaviour in each of these broad profiles was found to be consistent across all the product categories researched and was mapped against the source, location and level of influential interaction throughout the decision making process.
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