Digital consumers more loyal to brands

08 June 2009

NEW YORK: "Digital consumers", defined as people who have previously used the internet to buy products or research specific categories, exhibit a greater degree of brand loyalty than the average shopper, Millward Brown says.

Based on over 100,000 consumer interviews in 24 countries, and 8,000 brand assessments, the research firm found that digital consumers have brand loyalty scores that are 15% higher than their "non-digital" counterparts, as well as forming "strong relationships" with more specific properties.

While digital consumers display heightened loyalty across all sectors, the difference between this segment and the typical consumer peaked at 93% for the airline category, a figure falling to 48% for IT hardware, and 45% for IT software.

Other areas where this difference was particularly pronounced included fragrances, on 29%, with apparel posting an uptick of 27% among women and 20% among men, while body care recorded an overall improvement of 22%.

Beer brands also saw an upturn of 12% compared with the norm, with mobile phone handset manufacturers, mineral water and banking brands all on 9%, haircare products on 8%, grocery stores on 7%, and soft drinks on 5%.

Overall, Millward Brown argues that digital consumers are "simply more interested in brands", a trend that is reinforced as they "develop brand knowledge" through conducting online research.

As evidence of this, the company reports that "the average difference is higher in categories where there are more digital consumers."

In terms of individual countries, Japan and Taiwan saw the greatest degree of difference between digital and non-digital consumers, with loyalty levels among the former group some 36% higher than those for the latter.

Hong Kong, the US and UK were also strong performers, with loyalty scores rising by around 30% among the digital demographic, with Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Korea also up by over 20%.

Among the lowest performers were Mexico, Russia, Thailand and Hungary, all seeing improvements of less than 10%, falling to a low of just 2% in China.

Internet penetration levels seem to have little influence on the overall situation, as, for example, India and Canada both posted improvements of almost 15%, despite the fact web access rates stand at 10% and 80% in these markets respectively.

While the profile of the average digital consumer varies by category, they are typically "younger, male, affluent and creative types who like excitement."

Overall, members of this group of web users are also twice as likely to be "transmitters", defined as "knowledgeable category consumers who influence others with their opinions."

Data sourced from Millward Brown; additional content by WARC staff