This week I had the opportunity to review the latest Sensis Social Media Report and it made for some fascinating reading. The report contains some great statistics and trends on consumer and business engagement with social media, such as, the proportion of businesses with a social media presence, what type of devices people use to access social media, which social networking platforms are being used (or not) and what level businesses are investing in their social media presence.
The report is seriously comprehensive and covers off pretty much everything happening in the social media landscape for the Australian market. Some of the sample sizes are a bit questionable with data extrapolated out from as little as 54 respondents, although there were no major surprises in the trends or the analysis around the results.
One statistic that jumped out for me though, was that among the 14% that use social media to research something that they wish to buy, 59% of that research lead to a purchase (Sensis 2016 pp. 39).
Source”: Sensis Social Media Report 2016
This got me thinking…
Traditional consumer behaviour models for the decision-making process (such as Schiffman et al. 2011) focus on the buyer’s family and friendship groups being the biggest influencers. So, how do “virtual influencers” such as Facebook friends, which you may not actually have a real world connection with, fit in to this model? And specifically, what influence can social media have on what was a well-defined model for consumer purchasing behaviour.
Using social media to research product is certainly a trend worth following. In a recent paper the author (Constantinides 2014) makes note that social media made customers more sophisticated and helped them develop new tactics in searching, evaluating, choosing and buying goods and services.
According to Bigne et al (2015), Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) information exchanges can enhance competency during the purchase experience. They go on to explain that consumers trust these exchanges more than traditional communication media because they consider this information to be reliable, nonbiased, and timely. However, in their research findings they concluded that customers are willing to share information obtained from external influences in online environments, but they do not base their purchase decisions on it, nor do they transmit it to the people with whom they have close offline bonds.
This would be a fascinating area to research further as social media continues to shape how the consumer and business interact with each other and how the decision making process is opened up to a whole new range of influences.