If a new study is to be believed, you should be building direct relationships through search, online and mobile Web sites with women who show interest. It will become one of the most valuable marketing tools a company can have.
The joint study from iVillage and SheSpeaks highlights that interaction between women through online community Web sites, forums and message boards have a "dramatic" influence on driving product preference, loyalty, and purchase.
Online coupons and customer reviews continue to influence purchases. Women are 77% more likely to look for products and 67% more likely to purchase them in a store after reading online reviews on a community forum or message board.
The study reveals that while social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are valuable communications channels, with 51% of women actively following brands and retailers online, these channels are relatively less -- 19% -- influential in prompting purchases. Other forms of marketing that prove influential include online coupons at 68%; online product reviews by consumers, 61%; emails from companies or brands, 45%; and articles read online, 41%.
About half of the women responding to the survey spend between six and 30 minutes preparing for a shopping trip, and two-thirds spend between six and 60 minutes. They search for product information online and offline, looking for coupons in multiple channels, and reading email newsletters. Although the research channels used most vary by product category like food and beverage versus health and beauty, it is clear that brand marketers need to understand the most influential digital channels for their specific product.
"Women want advice from other shoppers, but they also want to share their experiences and look for validation before making a purchase," says Jodi Kahn, executive vice president at iVillage. "They become much more loyal to a brand if you give them the tools to make the correct buying decision. Coupons and programs increase brand loyalty."
A parenting Web site, along with a beauty Web site -- both from iVillage.com, scheduled to launch Thursday -- will make it easier for women to search for information and product reviews.
Women typically control the purchasing decisions in the home, Kahn says. Knowing the brands that communicate with women can have a greater impact on a variety of purchase behaviors. Seventy-four percent of the women who participated in the survey said recommendations gave them a more favorable view of the product while shopping, and 70% said they were more likely to choose the brand or product over others.
Online channels influence women differently. Coupons and opinions influence women most when it comes to the purchase of food and beverage, health and beauty and household products. Online coupons at 68%, store coupons at 66%, consumer reviews on shopping sites at 61%, and online recommendations from friends at 59% are the top influencers. Sixty percent also say online coupons are more influential on their purchases now than one year ago, and 51% say consumer recommendations on Web sites are more influential.
Although 51% of women are fans or followers of grocery, health and beauty or household products brands and the stores that carry them, consumer reviews on shopping sites are a top influence for 61% of respondents. Online articles, by comparison, are a top influence with 35% of respondents saying that reading online content or articles is more influential now than one year ago. Blogs were also identified as an influence by 33% of respondents.
Facebook and Twitter fall to the bottom of the list. Only 19% believe that posts from friends influence them to make a purchase, and 11% cite posts from brands.