Despite the mass availability of online information, news, reviews and opinions, and social media, all generations of consumers still prefer conventional face-to-face communication when it comes to seeking purchase advice and recommendations, according to new research from global comms agency Grayling. In fact, Millennial men talk to more than double the number of people than any other group or gender when researching travel, auto, financial and consumer electronic purchases.
“There is a lot of commentary about the changing nature of influence, and we wanted to explore that in the context of a number of demographic, technological and social factors,” said Peter Harris, Grayling US CEO, in a news release. “What we found is that when it comes to influence, conventional means are still the most impactful, despite the undeniable impact of digital communication.”
The study, Inside Influence, found that three out of four people seeking advice prefer to do so in person by either talking one-on-one, in groups or on the phone. That far exceeds the preference for social media (5 percent) and texting (4 percent).
When it comes to initial research, online sources—such as company and review sites and search—are the go-to places; family members and friends are a close second.
The study takes an in-depth look at the ways in which different generations influence each other at the various stages of the consumer purchasing journey, and how that varies between age groups and different categories. The research surveyed a representative sample of Americans, from Boomers to Generation Z, and reviewed more than 1,000 variables impacting the influences on the consumer decision journey, from the research phase to the point of purchase and beyond.
Broad in scope, the research maps the complex role of ‘the four Ps’—partners, parents, peers and professionals—illustrating how their relative influence shifts throughout the decision-making and purchasing journey. It also shows how these patterns vary between generations, type of purchase, as well as the enduring power of the in-person recommendation.
Specifically, the research reveals:
- The relative influence of family members, friends, colleagues and experts, at different stages of the decision-making journey. For example, two-thirds said that they communicate with real people during their journey
- Which channels are used at different stages of the purchase journey, from research, through consideration and evaluation, to purchase. Hint: earned and owned channels rule the journey.
- Whether ‘official’ channels are trusted over ‘unofficial’ ones
- The surprising effects of social media on decision-making
- Which generations’ opinions are sought out, listened to, or ignored, by others. Or, whether they go it alone like Gen X.
- Whether negative news or reviews can be mitigated against, and how
- The speed of the decision-making process for different sectors, genders and generations
- The point at which ‘experts’ come into their own
- Which customers will advocate for your brand, and who will listen to them
“The value of this research to any consumer-facing brand is huge,” said Harris. “We are already talking to our clients about how these insights can help to better define channel strategies and ultimately improve ROI.”
The research was undertaken by Reputation Leaders, on behalf of Grayling. Field work took place between March 8th and March 13th with N=2009 adult people, 16+ in the USA. The sample was nationally representative by age deciles, gender and the four major regions. This was achieved through respondent quotas and the sample is unweighted. The margin of error on the study is 2.2% for N=2009.