Picture this: You're in the grocery store deciding which brand of cereal to buy. You take out your cell phone and lob in a call to your significant other asking Cinnamon Life or Banana Nut Crunch?
Sound familiar? The answer is probably yes, because most consumers don't buy spontaneously anymore. Instead, we research before we make purchases from small to large.
The upshot is that brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. In its stead, the opinions of others matter more.
In fact, only 3 percent of consumers now say they are "extremely loyal" to certain brands, while 72 percent say that when looking for product reviews online they are usually seeking out general consumer reviews, according to a study conducted by AMP Agency.
"The more information at our disposal the better decisions we can make for ourselves and the greater chance that the product is a better fit and more likely to meet your needs," says Adriann Fonstein, director of consumer insights at AMP Agency. What's even more telling, though, about this changing consumer mindset is that online research now plays a vital role in driving consumers to open their wallets. A whopping 94 percent of consumers said the research they did positively influenced their decision to buy a product.
This new mindset represents a shift from the previously held marketing notion emphasizing the need to move consumers down the purchase funnel, says Allison Marsh, vice president for consumer insights at AMP Agency. "There is a new cycle consumers go through when purchasing and it's made of rational and emotional thoughts and behaviors so it's more of a path to purchase," she says. "It's more cyclical and you have to constantly take your consumers through this cycle to make sure you are in the consideration set."
That path begins with the emotional spark to consider a purchase and is then followed by the rational pursuit of information online. Consumers are both comparing prices and reading product reviews, and their research habit doesn't apply just to bigger ticket or tech items. This behavior comes into play for fashion, health and beauty, consumer electronics, food and beverage, baby products, and other categories, AMP Agency reports.
The opinions consumers find can sway a purchase - the study found that 37 percent of consumers said the number of positive reviews for a product is one of the most influential factors in making a final purchase decision.
Given the changing behaviors, what's a brand to do? Brands needs to be aware that these conversations are happening and they shouldn't try to stop them, Marsh and Fonstein note. Marketers should reach out to digital influencers and offer products for review. They should also offer discussion forums on their own sites to feed the consumer desire for more information and research.
In addition, brands should also make sure product info is easily accessible and found on their own sites. AMP found that 47 percent of consumers use brand, manufacturer or retailer sites as part of their pre-purchase research, underscoring the importance of making information available online from the brand itself.