Consumers Still Mistrust Ads, Rely More On Word Of Mouth, Nielsen, Lithium Find

Consumers have never had much faith in advertising because -- let's face it -- not all brands provide accurate information about their products or services, and many tout positive features and gloss over less desirable ones.

Customer service is one source of discontent. One-third of Americans say they don't trust advertising to provide information about a product or service they are interested in buying, per a recent study. In addition, the always-on instant access to information has made consumers impatient.

Google's paid-search advertising practices took heat earlier this week when the word "deceptive" found its way into the same sentence as "search engine marketing." Co-sponsors Nielsen and Lithium Technologies followed up by releasing findings that analyze advertising trust issues in an online Harris Poll of more than 6,100 adults in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, France, and Germany. The study sheds light on how the Internet is rapidly changing customer expectations and the challenges of brands to adapt.



Rob Tarkoff, Lithium president and CEO, calls 2014 an age of "extreme expectations" and the survey results show that most brands need to improve their approach to stay relevant. 

Survey participants were asked about their online actions, behaviors, and attitudes. The survey results show how the Internet has empowered consumers with troves of useful information and more service options, but have made it more difficult to trust brands.

Consumers still rely on recommendations from family and friends when making purchase decisions. More than two-thirds of American, British, French, and Australian adults say they are more receptive to recommendations from family and friends on what to buy, compared with online advertising. Some 78% of German adults agree. In all countries surveyed, more than 70% of younger consumers ages 18 to 34 on average are more receptive to the recommendations of friends and family vs. online advertising.

When consumers ask brands or retailers for information, about two-thirds of American, British, and French adults expect a same-day response. Nearly three-fourths of German and Australian adults agree. American, French, and Australian adults are the most impatient, with a bit more than 40% expecting a response within an hour.

The majority of online consumers visit an average of three Web sites to research the product before making high-ticket purchases like jewelry, kitchen appliances, or a new car. French adults do the most online research, visiting an average of 3.52 sites before the purchase. American adults do the least online research, visiting an average of 2.3 sites. In most countries surveyed, younger consumers ages 18 to 44 tend to visit more sites compared with those ages 45 and older.

Picking up the phone to call customer service doesn't always prove to be helpful, especially when a recording asks the caller to leave their number to have someone call back. Around two-thirds of American, British, and Australian adults view picking up the phone to contact customer service as a last resort. Some 73% of adults in France share the same sentiment. In all the countries surveyed, consumers ages 18 to 44 are much less compelled to pick up the phone to contact customer service for help. Most customers just want easy online access to all the information needed to answer questions, troubleshoot issues, and learn more about specific products and services.

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