I’m back from vacation. It was great. A lot happened while I was gone – a LOT. I am still sorting through it all. In the meantime, my employer, Fleishman-Hillard, released a study last Thursday. The study was designed to track and measure the influence and impact of the Internet on consumer behavior and decisions in the U.K., Germany and France.
It is important to note, particularly given that Europe does not, like the U.S., have Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising, meaning that viral marketing may have an even greater role than the U.S. (though, of course, expect DTC in the U.S. to be curtailed in the coming marketing reforms headed our way).
Key findings of the study include the following:
- Across all three countries addressed by the study, the Internet has roughly double the influence of the second strongest medium – television – and roughly 8 times the influence of traditional printed media. This shift in consumer influence indicates a need and an opportunity for companies to re-prioritize the mix of communications channels they use to reach their customers.
- Consumers use the Internet in different ways to make different decisions. For example, consumers are more likely to seek opinions of others through social media and product-rating sites when making choices that have a great deal of personal impact (e.g., healthcare options or major electronics purchases). But they do use company-controlled sources when making transactional decisions on commoditized items, such as utilities or airline tickets.
- While consumers see the clear benefits of the Internet on their lives, they continue to have concerns about Internet safety and the trustworthiness of some online information. In the UK, for example, 66% of online consumers say the Internet helps them make better decisions, but just 28% trust the information companies provide on the Internet.
- Although most survey results were consistent across all three countries, use of the Internet shows distinct national differences. Germany leads the three countries in Web research, for example, while UK consumers are the most likely to have created an online profile site on a social networking page.