Digital needs nuanced approach in UK

09 May 2011

LONDON: Marketers must pursue a nuanced digital strategy reflecting the differing interests of consumers across social media, web communities and the mobile internet, a UK study has argued.

TNS Research International, part of WPP Group, questioned 1,595 people to gain an insight into emerging attitudes covering this area.

"The ultimate goal for many brands is to achieve an emotional connection with a consumer," the study said. "Online, brands do this through accumulating followers and creating communities, with the hope of building brand loyalty."

The company reported 87% of the sample log on to the web daily, while 31% post updates to a social network account with an equal frequency, reaching 30% for replying to the comments of their contacts.

A further 31% of participants browse the web every day to research goods and services or help them make purchase decisions.

Over the last 12 months, 21% of those surveyed had looked at a retailer's ecommerce hub prior to completing a transaction, alongside 15% viewing price comparison portals and checking a manufacturer's corporate site.

Figures fell to 9% for reading user feedback hosted on blogs and forums, and 8% for discussing similar material through dedicated and professional review sites.

At present, however, only 3% leverage properties such as Facebook and Twitter for the same purpose, TNS Research International's analysis revealed.

Elsewhere, 19% of interviewees have signed up as digital "friends" of a brand, including 70% doing so to access offers and promotions, measured against 56% expressing genuine affection for the item concerned.

The typical respondent has five relationships with companies and products, and many contributors had over 160 individuals in their personal network.

Three-quarters of netizens following brands like to customise websites and 73% "admire imaginative and unique communication platforms."

Exactly 65% of people who officially "like" offerings on Facebook, Twitter and equivalents partake in this activity because of an "attraction" to the product.

A 26% proportion of social networkers had written about goods and services on these hubs, and 25% considered such information on the path to purchase.

"Speedy responses and good crisis management planning is essential for brands to maintain [a] good online reputation," the study claimed.

"When the iPhone 4 launch was hampered by reports of signal issues, its delay in responding sent ripples of frustration across the internet."

For 35% of people that had joined brand communities, these moves were motivated by a wish to support the relevant product, and 31% hoped to find out more details.

In all, 17% of those polled found marketing messages "intrusive" when surfing the net, a total hitting 27% regarding email, and 24% during multimedia and entertainment content.

Ratings here stood at 23% surrounding knowledge and educational material, and 17% relating to exposures on social media.

Given the early-adopter status of the panel, the enthusiasm for mobile is perhaps unsurprising, as 52% used email services through this route each day, standing at 46% for Web 2.0 platforms.

"By utilising new and engaging social media sites brands can target specific individuals," the study said.

It cited the example of mobile pioneer Foursquare, which rewards loyal customers who "check-in" to locations such as stores and restaurants with deals and special offers.

Data sourced from TNS Research International; additional content by Warc staff