With an interlocking combination of PR, marketing and advertising components, social media influencers have become a cornerstone of communicators’ digital strategy. New research from brand content marketplace IZEA Worldwide takes a close look at the impact and consumer awareness of these influencers on purchase decisions—and the retail sectors that are seeing the most impact.

Nearly 3 in 4 (74 percent) participants in the firm’s study indicated that they know or think they may know what a social media influencer is—and the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to be aware of online influencers. Millennials are more likely to be aware of online influencers, with 76 percent indicated that they know or think they may know what an influencer is. Awareness climbs to 87 percent for those who are 18-21 years of age.

Not only are consumers aware of online influencers, approximately 1 in 7 (14.7 percent) consider themselves to be online influencers. That number climbs dramatically with those aged 18-21, where 1 in 5 (20.0 percent) consider themselves to be influencers.

New research spotlights influencer impact on social purchasing

Online influencers are clearly impacting purchases

Approximately 1 in 3 (36.7 percent) of all participants indicated that they made a purchase of a product after seeing it promoted by an online influencer. An additional 11.5 percent indicated that they may have made a purchase after seeing an endorsement, but couldn’t recall.

Influencers drive beauty, clothing, and food product sales most

Participants indicated that they have purchased a wide array of products after seeing them promoted by an online influencer. Beauty and cosmetic items represented the biggest category of purchase overall, with 31.1 percent of participants making a purchase after seeing it promoted by an online influencer. That is followed closely by clothing and fashion accessories, with 28.8 percent of participants indicating they had made a purchase; and food and beverage, with 27.6 percent of participants making a purchase as the resulting of seeing an online influencer promoting the product.

New research spotlights influencer impact on social purchasing

When it comes to impact on purchase, millennials skew higher in virtually every category

Food and beverage leads the way for millennials with 35.4 percent of participants indicating they had made a purchase impacted by an influencer, closely followed by beauty and cosmetics at 34.8 percent and clothing and fashion accessories at 33.5 percent.

Females of all ages have been heavily impacted by online influencers when it comes to the purchase of beauty and cosmetic products in particular. The study showed that 46 percent of females indicated that they have purchased a beauty product or service after seeing it promoted by an influencer.

Influencers have an impact on all categories of purchase, but over-index for consumables and lower priced items. Items such as cars and furniture are purchased less frequently than lipstick or soda. The influencer space is still nascent and the impact on larger ticket items may increase over time as more of those purchase decisions are made.

New research spotlights influencer impact on social purchasing

Social sites, led by Facebook, impact purchase decisions

  • 48.7 percent of participants indicated that Facebook has had an impact on their product or service purchase decisions.
  • 38.3 percent indicated YouTube had an effect on purchases, and
  • 34.1 percent indicated Instagram impacted their buying behavior

Millennials also differ from the general population here, citing Instagram as the most impactful on product or service purchase decisions.

While Facebook may have the biggest perceived impact on purchase decisions, 39.3 percent of participants believe that Instagram is the best platform to promote a product through an online influencer.

New research spotlights influencer impact on social purchasing

YouTube videos are being used for product research

When researching a purchase decision, 29.5 percent of participants are turning to YouTube first to gather product information. Participants are also using Facebook (18.6 percent), Instagram (11.9 percent), and Pinterest (9.8 percent) for research prior to purchase.

For millennials, usage increases, with 35.2 percent of millennials turning to YouTube as their first source of social product research.

Download a snapshot of the study here.

The study surveyed a total of 710 U.S. adults, age 18-65, of which 506 people qualified to participate. Respondents had to indicate that they were active on social media in order to qualify. Survey participants were sourced through an independent third-party panel. The estimated margin of error based on the sample size is +-5 percent.

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