What is driving the increase in Online Shopping Behaviour and why should businesses care about the Connected Consumer? BlueMagnet shares our thoughts in this interview with Carte Blanche on 14th August 2016.

Gillian Meier, Carte Blanche Interview

The Power of the Connected Consumer

Consumers are more connected and digital savvy than ever before, and they are relying heavily on their networks when looking for information on upcoming purchases. Whether purchasing online or offline, as much as 66% of South African consumers will search online – or reach out to their digital networks first – when looking for information about a product or service, from getting initial ideas to reaching a final decision.

The Connected Consumer KeyboardThe internet is playing a more significant role in the consumer’s buying decision:  40% of consumers will use search engines as their primary source of information; 31% will go directly to a brand or retail website to find information about the brand; 24% will rely on social media, videos, blogs, forums and review sites; and only 4% will visit news sites or online magazines.

Consumers are becoming far more influenced by their networks, with as much as 71% of consumers being more likely to purchase an item based on a referral from friends or family members. Fifteen percent of South African consumers first learned of a product that they purchased as a result of having had discussions with their network on social media, even though they were not initially aware of the product, or that they were interested in purchasing it.

For the 16 to 35 year old Millennials, the internet is playing a far more integral part of their purchasing decision, with 90% of them going online daily to catch up on social networks, research, shop online and watch videos. For this generation of consumer, 67% will first access their social networks when looking for information about a brand, product or service. Sixty two percent also use search engines as a key source of information.

With over 13 million South African’s connected on Facebook; 8 million on YouTube; 7,4 million on Twitter; 4,6 million on LinkedIn; and close to 2,7 million on Instagram, consumers are continuously exposed to reviews, comments and complaints posted by friends, family and peers – and they’re paying attention to those comments when making a buying decision.

According to a Forbes study, consumers are placing less importance on brand mentions by companies (78%) than brand recommendations by friends & family (81%). In South Africa, 35% of brand mentions in Tweets are posted by the consumers themselves and not the brands. One in three Internet users are considered Brand Advocates, of whom half will share content about their favourite brand daily.

After completing an online or offline purchase, 26% of consumers will go online to either share their purchase experience, to look for help or instructions on how to use the product, or to post reviews and ratings about the product or their experience.

When consumers have a good experience with a brand, they want to tell somebody about it. When they have a bad experience, they want to tell everybody. And they’re doing exactly that – via their networks. These always-on inter-networked markets are speaking to each other in a new and influential way. Their reach exceeds that of traditional brand marketing, and they have the power to impact the masses faster and at any time of the day.

These markets are becoming more informed than ever before. Connected consumers have no secrets and hold no punches. Whether explaining or complaining, their voice is authentic and direct. This inter-networked market often knows more than companies do about their own brands.

Connected consumers know what they want, and they know how to reach out to their connections online to find it. They have a far reaching voice, and they know how to be heard. By understanding what consumers look for, brands are able to ensure that they are part of the conversation, and that they better understand the needs and desires of their customers and future consumers.

BlueMagnet Online Market Research Report: The Connected Consumer, South Africa July ’16. Full Report available on request. Author: Gillian Meier, CEO / Online Research Analyst @ BlueMagnet

Article written for and originally published on Carte Blanche on 14 August’16.