The rise of the savvy consumer and how they came to trust user generated content [Five tips]

Yesterday Apple released the latest version of Mountain Lion. I was in two minds about whether to buy it. So I hopped onto Google, did a bit of research, read some reviews and asked my followers on Twitter. On the basis of this five or ten minutes of investigation, I took the plunge and purchased.

Does this process sound familiar?

Today, new consumer research has been released that looks at the different ways UK consumers are influenced before they make a technology purchase.

Just think back to the last time you invested in a new TV, mobile or laptop. What steps did you take? Chances are you didn’t just pop into PC World and grab the first piece of shiny tech on offer.

Chances are you talked to friends, searched the web and read reviews. If our research is correct, you probably did all this and a lot more. Friends and family play an important role, cited by 52% of those polled. However, there appears to be increasing significance of user-generated content, with 51% saying they trust user and consumer reviews 44% flock to expert reviews. Social media features too, but did not have as much of an impact as you might expect.

In a recent ebook, Google calls this moment ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth. It’s the time before making a purchase that you spend researching and investigating:

“It’s a new decision-making moment that takes place a hundred million times a day on mobile phones, laptops and wired devices of all kinds. It’s a moment where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world.”

For PR professionals this is a consumer trend that needs to be carefully assessed. Our report also found that only 12% cited brand loyalty as an influence on their buying habits. Loyalty goes out the window if a close friend tells you that XYZ brand sucks.

And, if that is not enough, the really scary thing is that you could invest significant budget trying to get someone to commit to buying a new product, only for them to then research and then potentially buy from one of your competitors.

So what can brands do to succeed in this world of the savvy consumer?

  • 1. Understand your buyer – where do they go to get information? What sources do they trust? We found, for example, that different age demographics were influenced in different ways.
  • 2. Be helpful – don’t make information hard to find. Realise that research is very important for the modern consumer. You might even want to think about spec sheets that make comparisons with the competition.
  • 3. Don’t ignore traditional media – expert reviews were still an important source of information.
  • Reward and encourage advocates and evangelists – time and time again our research revealed the importance of word of mouth when making purchasing decisions. It will come as no shock to learn that we trust our friends and family. So an evangelist won’t just be a committed customer for life (in fact, with brand loyalty at an all time low, they definitely won’t be!), they will become a very powerful, unpaid salesperson for your brand.
  • 4. Don’t ignore search – it’s no coincidence that Google wrote ZMOT. Search lies at the heart of much of this. Check now to see how your brand comes over when you go to Google and type in *your product area* plus the word ‘review’.
  • 5. Content is key – related to the last point, content and the distribution of content is more important than ever; on your site, on social channels, on media or blogger websites and even offline.

Danny Whatmough is an Account Director at EML Wildfire Tech PR, he blogs at