ST LOUIS: A new study to track and measure the impact of the internet on consumer behaviour in three key European countries - the UK, Germany and France - claims the web has roughly double the influence of television - the second strongest medium - and around eight times that of traditional print media. 

The results of the Digital Influence Index study indicates a need for companies to re-think their communications in response to the media shift in consumer influence, argues US-headquartered PR firm Fleishman-Hillard, which conducted the study with pollster Harris Interactive.

The study found consumers were more likely to seek opinions through social media and product-rating sites when it came to making decisions with personal impact - healthcare options or major electronics purchases, for example.

However, shoppers tend to use company-controlled sources when making transactional decisions on items like utilities or airline tickets.

The report, which surveyed 5,000 people, reveals that despite consumers' belief in the positive power of the web, they were still concerned about its safety and the trustworthiness of some of the information they find online.

In the UK, for example, 66% of online consumers say the internet helps them make better decisions, but just 28% trust the information provided by companies.

Declares Dave Senay, president/ceo of Omnicom-owned Fleishman-Hillard: "The research shows that the internet stands out as the most important medium in the lives of European consumers today.

"But there's a mismatch between the impact of the digital channel across a wide range of consumer behaviours and decisions and the proportion of resources organisations generally are allocating to it relative to other media."

Adds Brian McRoberts, vp digital research: "There are many ... insights into behaviour which we uncovered which can aid in planning the specific brand or corporate-level approach to using the internet to engage the public."

It is not known whether FH undertook the study for its own purposes or on behalf of a specific client.

Data sourced from M&M Global and; additional content by WARC staff