NEW YORK: Brand loyalty is considered to be a crucial factor in the purchase process by less than 40% of consumers around the world, a new study has shown.

Ernst & Young, the business services firm, polled nearly 25,000 people in 34 markets, and found only 38% agreed that loyalty played a central role in shaping their decisions.

Scores on this measure rose to 40% in China, 31% in India and 30% in the Middle East. But the US scored just 25%, and Western Europe and South Africa were still lower on 24% and 23% respectively.

When rating loyalty on a ten-point scale, the telecoms sector registered 6.8 points, ahead of food and beverages on 6.6 points, electronics on 6.3 points, automotive on 6.2 points and clothing on 5.9 points.

More broadly, 89% of shoppers agreed that price and/or the terms of delivery influenced their purchases, while quality and warranties posted 82%, technical features were on 48% and availability secured 41%.

Less favourably, a modest 29% of the sample concurred that "brand" and "image" had a similar role, declining further to 15% for the environmental credentials of manufacturers.

"Consumers are harder to define, understand and please than ever before," the study said. "Digital technology is altering not only how, where and when consumers shop, but is transforming their expectations of, and interactions with, all suppliers."

In assessing favoured communications channels, personal contact recorded 6.6 points, beating 5.3 points for online and 4.9 points concerning print and electronic media.

Social media logged 5.9 points on the same metric, yielding 6.9 points in Australia, 6.6 points in the US and 6.3 points in Western Europe, but dipping to five points in Brazil and 4.9 points in India.

When assessing social media as an "objective" source of information, however, the global total came in at just 5.4 points, peaking at 6.4 points in Brazil, and hitting a low of 4.6 points in Australia.

Turning to ecommerce, 62% of consumers regularly use the web on the path to purchase, compared with 38% who "insist" on buying in stores. Only 14% of 15-30 year olds frequently researched and acquired goods solely through bricks and mortar outlets.

Upon assessing the qualities they would pay extra for, innovative features were cited by 12% of the sample, beating top-quality service on 11%, customisable or green goods on 9%, and ethically or domestically product goods, on 6% each.

Data sourced from Ernst & Young; additional content by Warc staff