WOM plays key role in US

27 January 2012

NEW YORK: A majority of female shoppers in the US feel it is their "responsibility" to help friends and family make purchase decisions, demonstrating how important word of mouth can be in shaping habits.

Fleishman-Hillard, the communications network, Hearst Magazines, the publisher, and Ipsos, the research firm, surveyed 1,270 women in the 25–69 year age range with a household income of at least $25,000.

Overall, 50% of the sample agreed they regularly influenced friends and family members when it came to buying goods and services. This compared with the total of 31% logged in a similar study from 2008.

Another 54% of participants thought it was their "responsibility" to assist friends and family members to make "smart" purchase choices.

Some 88% of contributors liked to have as much information as possible when choosing brands, 86% were now "smarter shoppers" and 77% said "intuition" was still the most powerful influence overall.

However, 79% added that a recommendation from a trusted source was a "comfort", 76% had chosen or avoided a product due to these suggestions, and 68% were "likely" to acquire lines favoured by friends or family.

In the six months before the poll, 46% of respondents had read an online user review, 33% had recommended goods and services, 30% had reviewed such offerings on a website and 19% had tried to dissuade someone from selecting a particular brand.

Offline channels remain central for spreading information and making recommendations, as 52% of contributors did so in-person at a social gathering, reaching 39% for engaging in these activities face-to-face at work, 27% on the phone and 21% in stores.

Figures declined to 16% on this measure for email, 15% for social networks, 12% for text messages and 6% for posting a standalone review or blog on the net.

Turning to social media, the analysis found 73% of the panel were members of Facebook, and 65% had signed up to "like" a company or brand.

More specifically, 28% of women reported that using social networks had made it easier for them to decide what to buy, and 27% suggested sharing their shopping and product experiences was "empowering".

When discussing important elements of ads, 45% of women mentioned easily being able to find the price, 43% wanted "proof of quality", 39% desired personal relevance and 28% preferred "easy to remember" content.

Data sourced from Fleishman-Hillard; additional content by Warc staff