NEEDING SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN . . . Social Media As A Buyer Influence

We’re hip deep into Q4 and retailers are scurrying to uncover every last bit of revenue. In the midst of this commercial revelry, the marketing world has been hit with a controversial bombshell, from the venerated Forrester Group. The punch to the gut is that the mother lode of new marketing – Social Media, is a bust.  All you social media consultants move your collective feet back from the ledge because, I disagree—kinda.

In a controversial Forrester article that has eCommerce executives driving their 5 Series to a Thelma and Louise crescendo concludes that social media marketing efforts generate an anemic, less than one percent of new or repeat sales.  Most executives I’ve talked to would have wagered their beloved 5 Series that the number is closer to 20%.

I won’t bore you with the litany of statistics included in the article, but the long and short of it is new customers are like cloistered monks that prior to handing over the AmEx, do their independent research, busily typing URLs or staring blankly at a billboard during the daily hour long commute.

Additionally, repeat purchasing monks dutifully wait for their e-mail inbox to influence how they are to barter their honey mead.

I will not deny that there is no replacement for independent research prior to a purchase.  But one cannot convince me that less than one percent of buyers are not influenced about what Dad says about a car, what Bob “the neighbor” says about his new 3D television or what your best friend says about the newest hand bag in whatever media they choose.

What the heck is social media anyway? (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a semester long discourse.) It’s simply a lot of peers discussing what they’ve experienced and how they feel on a myriad of subjects in a medium that amplifies their voice.  Allow me to illustrate; every one of you guys out there, raise your hand if you’ve ever purchased a TV because of a review or what a friend said. Thought so….why? Because, we trust our peers, who aren’t making a buck off of their voice, … Madison Avenue…Not so much.

Bizrate (a collaborator with Forrester Research in the above article) stated in an earlier 2012 piece that:

Most online buyers are open to shopping information that is shared by friends and family on social media sites. 48% agree it is a “great way to discover new products, trends, or retailers” and 40% find it helpful in “discovering sales and promotions.” 17% have “bought something based on a friend’s post [emphasis added].”

Will I purchase that TV because my neighbor posted an opinion about how Shrek just “jumped right at me”?  No. But, I’ll start looking into it.

Inc. shed some additional light on the purchasing habits of the consumer. “A whopping 86 percent of consumers say search engines are very important in the buying process, while just one percent use social media alone.”

Touché Google. But, wait for it….”Nearly half of consumers use a combination of search and social media to fuel their purchasing decision.”

Or put another way …

Purchasing Influence

Buyers living in an information rich world seek information.  When making a decision that separates us from our hard earned dollars, we will make an informed decision that does not rely exclusively on an email, a Google search or the postings of a friend.  But all will certainly have significant and substantial roles for various market channels.

To say only one percent of consumers use social media as a purchase trigger may be statistically valid, it may be correct, but to nearly half of buyers, it is an absolutely important purchasing influencer.  To ignore the voice of the customer and relegate it to 1% of your market efforts is a perilous step.

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