Brands have limitless opportunities to get in front of today’s consumer on their path to purchase. Whether they’re reading reviews on Amazon, browsing your inventory on a big box retailer’s website, or walking into a retail location that carries your brand, they’re looking for recommendations on why they should or shouldn’t buy your product. In fact, 58% of consumers using mobile while shopping in-store are researching products.
We wanted to get a temperature check on how consumers view product recommendations, and how they weigh recommendations from various sources, particularly in today’s world where fake review headlines abound. We asked more than 500 consumers for their insights, and the results are in: consumers seek out recommendations from numerous places. Multichannel is no longer the standard; brands must invest in an omnichannel approach grounded in providing consumers with recommendations they can trust.
Where consumers go for advice
When asked where they found or received a recent recommendation, 42% of consumers pointed to an online recommendation, 29% received a recommendation from family or friends, and 14% received a recommendation from a store.
Research online, buy offline
Consumers still prefer the in-store experience, and data shows that most U.S. consumers prefer to purchase the product in-store after researching the product online. 79% of consumers like to shop in-store to see and experience products; the ease of discovering and researching a product online is hard to beat, but still cannot trump those tactile interactions with a product. As long as retailers and brands provide a unique in-store experience, they will continue to see both online and offline traffic. This consumer behavior does require more effort on the part of the retailer and brand, however, as consumers are now interacting on multiple touchpoints.
One consumer responded, “I try the retail store first so I can get a ‘hands on experience’ of the product. Then I go to the website to do some research, but I don’t find most of them to be all that helpful. Lastly I ask my friends or acquaintances if they have had any experience with a certain product.”
Many consumers can relate to this scenario, and unfortunately the opportunities for a brand or retailer to fall short are plentiful. Currently 81% of consumers plan to shop at least as often in a retail store next year, yet only 32% of consumers find retail sales associates to be helpful. And as the above consumer said, many find even the online experience to be lacking.
In order to execute the most effective omnichannel approach, touchpoint opportunities must be bolstered by an educated recommendation.
As one consumer responded, “I often use a variety of sources to get a more balanced or complete view.”
What do consumers mean by a balanced or complete view? As a brand, you must consider that consumers are becoming very judicious when reading generic online reviews, and that these consumers consider multiple sources a must when considering a new product purchase. And as a brand, you must find a way to encourage your experts to provide both in-person and credible online recommendations.
Which recommendations do consumers trust?
Today’s consumers recognize that even the most native looking digital advertising is still advertising, and they don’t trust the motivations behind what advertising is meant to do. While a retail landscape that’s resistant to advertising messages can be frustrating for marketers, it’s an opportunity to become more creative in strategies, tactics, and interactions.
Investing in credible, trusted recommendations is one method by which marketers can still reach consumers in an authentic way. As one consumer respondent stated, “The best promotions are word of mouth. I trust my friends in my workout community and am always willing to buy a product they know and recommend.” By communicating marketing messages through the voice consumers trust when looking for a new product to buy, marketers can help repair the trust gap — and it all starts with someone who knows their stuff in a given category.
In this consumer panel, we asked about the experience level of those they receive recommendations from. 61% received recommendations from someone with more experience, while 36% reported receiving recommendations from someone with similar experience.
What makes a good in-person product recommendation? Overwhelmingly, knowledge of the product is critical, however 63% of consumers stated that the person making the recommendation understanding what the consumer would specifically need is also valuable.
Better recommendations lead to increased sales
Consumers are bombarded by marketing and advertising messages every single day, and the noise can be deafening. A previous consumer panel measuring consumer trust found that only 2% of consumers have taken buying advice from a celebrity endorsement, and only 6% have taken buying advice from social influencers. And 72% of consumers aren’t at all likely to take buying advice from someone if they aren’t knowledgeable in their field.
In order to provide a better experience for consumers at every possible touchpoint, brands need to engage both retail sales associates and industry professionals. By training them on your brand story, product specifications, and even company history, you’re boosting the likelihood to recommend. You’re ensuring that every time they have a conversation with a consumer, they can provide the specific recommendation that consumer needs to buy confidently.
Whether a consumer has a question online, in-store, at the gym, or through social media, they will get the answers they need. And the brands who prioritize educating through both training and product experiences are the brands who will be recommended most.