Ninety-eight percent of South African consumers like ‘talking’ versus 95% who like ‘tapping’ (digital interaction or communication) when it comes to sharing their brand experiences or seeking recommendations.
A new report from Nielsen, the Real Life vs Digital Life Report, said the “obsession” around social media had “created the illusion that digital reality rules, putting all real life communication on the backburner”.
Nielsen said that although consumers actively engaged online, word of mouth or real life conversations had a “stronger influence on consumers’ minds and, therefore, their purchasing decisions”.
“Word of mouth has always been and remains one of the greatest enablers for marketers in the battles for consumers’ hearts and minds, and it is crucial to understand the way you can leverage its opportunities for your brand,” said Sue Temple, vice-president of Global Consumer Insights at Nielsen. “It is easier for us to trust people we know – friends, spouses, colleagues – than unknown personalities on social media so to unlock this opportunity for business more efforts need to be put into a positive experience, which will encourage your customers to share within their personal network.”
Word of mouth influence
The Real Life vs Digital Life survey reported that 77% of respondents from South Africa had confirmed word of mouth influenced them “highly” versus 65% social media, which included all types of interactions that consumers have online, including traditional social media sites and websites.
Disturbingly, despite the extensive use of social media, Nielsen discovered that the ore consumers use social networks, the less they trust them.
“With social networks rising in popularity over the last decade it is no surprise their use, spread among all generations, is leaking into consumer’s everyday life,” Temple said. “Nevertheless, the quality of digital communication hasn’t developed at the same pace, and having been burned too many times, when dealing with fake news, frauds and data breaches consumers respond with less trust to information shared via new media.”
Interestingly, in South Africa, newspapers commanded a ‘trust to usage’ index of 225, television 116 and internet/digital media, a much lower index of 77.
“Globally, Millennials happen to be the most loyal audience for all channels, with newspapers being the most trusted channel (index of 356) for them. On the flipside, Baby Boomers are sceptical towards all channels and the Silent generation has a clear preference to newspapers (index of 241),” Nielsen reported.
For South Africans, top of the list for reasons for going online were:
- When they found it interesting to read something online (46%),
- Sought recommendations (44%)
- Shared the experience (36%)
Most South Africans express their personal opinions in real life because they would like to recommend good products (46%), are sharing the experience (45%), and remarking on exclusive deals and offers (44%), Nielsen said.
Consumers as observers
“With that being said, consumers are taking the role of observer when online: they are on the lookout for information about the product, and relevant and interesting content may inspire consumers to take the dialogue offline. It’s crucial to understand the link between the two — digital and real life — and what triggers having a broader discussion about the brand,” Temple added.
“Clearly, real life conversations remain consumers’ comfort zone; a way to share true emotions with their community. When impressed by the experience, they can easily become your brand ambassadors.”
Overall, more consumers talk about brands than post about them on social media with 86% of South African consumers preferring to talk about brands in real life versus the 63% who tapped.
“These differences have a direct impact on the efficiency of marketing campaigns,” Temple said. “Knowing who the most probable influencers are will help in sharpening brands’ social media campaigns.”
 Trust to usage index is the ratio of consumers who use the media most often to trusting the media most often
Note: Story updated with corrected information from Nielsen.
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