Commentary

Expert Content Is Best Influencer in Purchase Funnel

According to a new study by Nielsen, commissioned by inPowered and entitled The Role of the Consumer in the Decision Making Process, consumers report an increase in usage across all sources of information in the past five years, including sources such as brand websites, user reviews, and third party expert content, when learning more about new products and services. The ability to easily access information from a variety of sources has fundamentally changed the way consumers research products and, ultimately, make purchase decisions.

Results of the study show that expert content (credible, third-party articles and reviews) is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process, across product categories.

Information Source Usage In The Consumer Decision Process

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Information Source

% of Respondents Using

 

Use Less

Use More

Social media

10%

54%

User reviews

11

52

Online advertising

11

51

Expert reviews

11

46

Word of mouth

10

45

Official brand websites

13

44

TV advertising

15

40

Radio advertising

24

29

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

To evaluate the impact of expert content and branded content online and its role in the purchase process, an experimental design was used to expose consumers to content and then measure the impact of that content in creating product awareness/familiarity, influencing perceptions and increasing purchase consideration.

A controlled-lab setting was critical, says the report, as the amount of information to be digested was such that it introduced the possibility that respondents would not fully read the content or information provided if exposed in an unsupervised testing environment. The Nielsen MediaLabs facility draws from a nationally-representative population, and is the only lab facility to offer in-lab testing without relying only on locally recruited respondents. These advantages were conducive to increasing the reliability and projectability of the research findings.

Content was classified as one of three content types: expert content, user reviews, and branded content.

  • Expert content includes reviews and articles selected from third-party websites and blogs dedicated to the relevant product category.
  • User reviews were selected from the reviews portion of major online retailers or forums.
  • Branded content was content taken directly from the official websites for each product.

 An at-a-glance summary of the experiment results shows that, while each content type had some success at increasing product familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent, content written by credible experts performed best overall.

Expert content was the only content type to exhibit a strong lift in all 3 areas of the purchase cycle. It provided the most familiarity lift for 7 out of the 9 products, the most affinity lift for 5 of the 9 products, and the most purchase intent lift for 6 of the 9 products.

On average, expert content lifted familiarity 88% more than branded content and 50% more than user reviews; they lifted affinity 50% more than branded content and 20% more than user reviews; finally, they lifted purchase consideration 38% more than branded content and 83% more than user reviews.

Positive Lift Percentage From Exposure to Expert Content

 

Lift

Product

Familiarity

Affinity

Purchase Consideration

Smartphone

22%

13%

16%

Smart TV

8

6

7

Video Game

30

22

11

Car Seat

28

19

14

Electric Toothbrush

3

12

9

Dryer

18

10

16

New Automobile

6

4

15

Auto Insurance

3

6

5

Camera

19

12

6

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

 

Positive Lift Percentage From Exposure to User Reviews

Product

Lift

 

Familiarity

Affinity

Purchase Consideration

Smartphone

9%

6%

2%

Smart TV

1

9

4

Video Game

25

28

20

Car Seat

11

16

19

Electric Toothbrush

2

16

0

Dryer

21

9

0

New Automobile

4

0

8

Auto Insurance

0

1

2

Camera

11

6

6

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

 

Positive Lift Percentage From Exposure to Branded Content

Product

Lift

 

Familiarity

Affinity

Purchase Consideration

Smartphone

7%

10%

13%

Smart TV

0

7

0

Video Game

17

3

12

Car Seat

19

15

16

Electric Toothbrush

11

10

7

Dryer

10

12

9

New Automobile

6

2

4

Auto Insurance

0

4

1

Camera

16

12

12

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

Two key differentiators help to explain why expert content was the only type that exhibited this strong lift across all three areas of the purchase funnel, says the report. The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product.

The other key differentiator was how informative the respondents perceived the content to be. Consumers perceived expert content to be 10% and 8% more informative than both user content and branded content respectively. Thus, expert content’s ability to provide the greatest breadth and variety of information compared to branded and user content, combined with a perspective that it was perceived as unbiased, appears to be driving its consistently high performance in all areas of the purchase process.

Impact Of Content Types Across Purchase Process

Information Source

Purchase Consideration

Affinity

Familiarity

User reviews

6%

10%

10%

Branded content

8%

8%

8%

Expert content

11%

12%

15%

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

Expert Content Effectiveness

Purchase Consideration

   + 83% Vs. User Reviews

   +38% Vs. Branded Content

Affinity

   +20% Vs. User Reviews

   +50% Vs. Branded Content

Familiarity

   +50% Vs. User Reviews

   +88% Vs. Branded Content

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

While user reviews and branded content did not exhibit the same pattern of consistency in performance across all categories and phases of the purchase cycle that was observed with expert content, there were instances where their impact was strongest. With branded content, for example, lift was strongest with categories where product specs were a critical part of the part of the decision making process. And, user reviews were found to be successful in categories where users tend to have a higher degree of product expertise.

Expert content was most effective at influencing high price point purchases (i.e. $1,000+). It is important to note that branded content was effective at driving familiarity and affinity for big ticket purchases, but it was not as effective at persuading purchase consideration. User reviews had even less relevance for these types of purchases. Ultimately, expert content influenced all three phases and was most effective at driving final purchase consideration. The higher the price point, the more efficient expert content was in educating and persuading consumers. 

Content Impact On High-Priced Items

Brand Impact: High-Priced Items (Index)

 Expert Content

User Reviews

 Branded content

Familiarity Lift

122

33

144

Affinity Lift

153

47

127

Purchase Intent Lift

186

57

57

Source: Nielsen/inPowered study, March 2014

Concluding, the report pointed out that, overall, the research indicates that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased. This trust further suggests that expert content is more efficient at pushing consumers along the consumer decision-making process because it is more effective at consistently lifting these measures across each phase of the purchase process.

In the end, says the report, the impact of expert content on consumer decision making demonstrates the important role that objective and credible information from trusted sources play in the purchase process.

For additional information about the study from Nielsen in PDF format, please visit here.

 

 

 

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