A Question of Trust

A really interesting revision of the consumer decision process penned by McKinsey grabbed my attention recently, posted via an article called “The funnel is dead: the new consumer journey”.

In my experience, few theoretical purchase decision models recognise the influence of social media on consumer decisions, referred to here as ‘bonding’. What this further validates is that brands can no longer ignore the impact social media has in triggering choices in the process.

A recent statistic mentioned by Carrie Langton of Mumsnet based on their own research indicates that 79% of mums will only buy products for their children, which have previously been recommended by their peers.

There are however a few caveats to the ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth – a phrase coined by Google to explain the influence of web adverts and content on purchase decisions, and an online emulation of the now legendary phrase popularised by Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley, who in a 2002 letter to shareholders defined it as the moment “when consumers stand in front of a store shelf … and decide whether to buy a P&G brand, or a competing product.”

Indeed, the level of influence of peer recommendations through social media still appears, to some extent, to be limited to high value items, smartphones being a good example or this. High involvement categories, such as beauty or fashion, are also prone to attracting more conversations, as blogs and forums help inspire users in their choices but also help consumers, and especially female ones, nurture their aspirations to an ideal. Several beauty brands have already harnessed this interest by inviting guest bloggers and celebrities to act as advisors. P&G have recently launched a new site called Super Savvy Me, aimed to fulfill this role.

This demonstrates that there is no better place than social media conversations for brands to research what drives other consumer’s recommendations and what ultimately builds trust in their franchise.

I have recently been involved in demonstrating that social media can be used to build a measure of trust, as exampled below.

Unsurprisingly, we found that M&S is more trusted as a brand than British Gas, despite an equal proportion of people talking about whether or not they trust these brands on social media channels. M&S was after all the fourth favourite British brand according to YouGov’s Brand Index latest results, despite dropping out of the top 3.

It also demonstrates that social media insights do complement traditional customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty or trust surveys nicely by giving a different perspective. What is certain though is that the influence of social media on purchase decisions can no longer be ignored.

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Gaelle Bertrand
Head of Brand Insight

Call me +44 (0)20 7264 6307

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