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How Do New Customers Hear About Brands and Products?

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How Do New Customers Hear About Brands and Products?
The issue of which marketing methods are most effective at persuading customers to give new brands and products a try is complex and variable, so marketing experts continue to seek new insights into how to create effective marketing messages.
 
This article will look at what methods can be used to relay marketing messages, and of these which methods are the most effective and why.
 
 
Influencers, Word of Mouth Recommendations and Drivers of Brand Recognition
 
Most advertising messages aren’t from trusted sources, so people have to make up their own mind about whether to try out a new product or service based on all of the information available. However, people who hear about a product or service from a friend, or on the basis of a personal recommendation are in a unique position as they are receiving an advertising message from someone they trust. Word of mouth therefore has the potential to be a powerful method of advertising. Digital Intelligence Today looked specifically at the issue of peer recommendations as a means of advertising and it found that people are much more likely to trust a recommendation from a peer than they were to trust a recommendation made by an advertisement.
 
Another much used method of advertising is influencer endorsement, but the impact of these endorsements is far from proven. Influencers are a new breed of “star” – popular people with a large number of followers, and they have emerged from the growth of user-generated channels like YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, where people can reach huge audiences. Today’s influencers upload user-generated content, such as amateur videos and photos, in many cases created with meagre financing. This material is then disseminated through social media channels, where ideas can swiftly reach a mass audience, sometimes in a matter of hours or days. These new trends are well summed up by some commentators who suggest that “today, we are all effectively media outlets”, who rightly suggest that advertising and promotion has been changed unrecognisably as a result of user-generated channels including YouTube and Snapchat. This “personal” dimension has been a boon for advertisers, as studies have shown that customers perceive “self-made” stars as more genuine and therefore more persuasive.
 
Yes Marketing looked specifically at the value of influencers and at the issue of how to effectively drive brand awareness. It found that word of mouth recommendations was a more powerful method of driving brand awareness than influencers (4%); news sites (2%) and product reviews (8%). Moreover, Yes Marketing also found that negative personal recommendations were a particularly powerful force, as 69% of the shoppers they surveyed stated that they had avoided shopping with a particular retailer because of negative word of mouth recommendations. Almost half of the consumers surveyed in the Yes Marketing survey stated that the first time they heard about a retailer they’ve never bought from previously, it was through friends or family. More than anything, this research from Yes Marketing underscores the importance of building trust and goodwill from people who have personal experience of your brand.
 
 
What Builds Trust in New Products and Services?
 
Whether a consumer places trust in a retailer or a product is an all-important consideration, so it is not surprising that retailers pour a lot of energy into doing the things they know will build trust in new customers. Lots of factors are important to consumers making an assessment of whether a brand is trustworthy, including pricing and product information, whether there is a social media presence, the quality of a retailer’s website, the quality of content published on social media, celebrity and influencer endorsements and recommendations from friends and family.
 
When it comes to social media, content matters a lot in building trust with consumers. When people see that a brand has invested a lot of resources, time and energy in creating meaningful, helpful and good quality video and blog content, they can place a little more trust in the retailer and the brand. Brands who have spent a lot of money and resources on creating a useful experience for their customers have a lot more to lose from a bad review, and as such customers see a brand that is less likely to let them down.
 
Reviews are another all-important factor that consumers take account of when they are deciding whether to trust a new brand or product. Consumers will look at the overall star rating that has accumulated, but they will also consider the number of reviews and the individual comments that are made.
 
Whether an influencer endorses a brand can be a very powerful force in terms of building trust in a new brand. Influencers are often respected because they have accumulated expertise in a given area, and this is something that can be a very powerful marketing tool. An example is founder of Kylie Cosmetics and reality TV star, Kylie Jenner, whose social media following of over 100 million followers makes her one of the world’s most successful influencers. In 2019, she was named by People as one of Instagram’s most valuable influencers, with a single sponsored post being valued at over $1 million USD in advertising value. She cemented her position as one of the world’s most important influencers when a statement published on her blog that she would stop using Snapchat apparently had a devastating impact on Snapchat’s share price, with CNN reporting that Snapchat’s stock price plunged by over a billion dollars shortly after the comment was made.  
 
However, in the advent of fake news and the Cambridge Analytica scandals, many sources are reporting that consumer confidence in influencers is in major decline. A study conducted by media specialist UM, which surveyed 56,000 active social media users in 81 different countries, suggests that only 8% of people believed the bulk of the information they see on social media, a figure that drops to 4% when the information is ascribed solely to an influencer. The study reported that only a very small minority of people reported that they believed that more than 75% of what they read on social media, was correct. The UM research further suggested that peoples’ trust in influencers was actually lower than the level of trust placed in governments, with only 12% of respondents agreeing with the statement “information shared by governments is mostly truthful”. As a group, people from both the US and the UK were even more skeptical about what they read on the internet with only 8% of UK people surveyed agreeing with the statement that “information shared by governments is mostly truthful”, and 6% of US respondents agreeing.
 
Even interventions by regulators, for example the Advertising Standards Agency in the UK, which took action to caution influencers found to be paying for likes and reactions on Instagram, has done little to allay the distrust that people place in influencers. It remains to be seen what impact that legislative regimes like the UK’s GDPR will have on levels of trust placed in online opinions and content.
 
Experts are suggesting that social media platforms need to take urgent action to remove fake content with fake followers if the levels of trust being placed in influencer content is to increase. For example, the UM survey asked respondents about the levels of trust they place in vloggers and bloggers who recommend products and services. Only 36% of UK respondents agreed that they trusted vloggers’ and bloggers’ opinions and recommendations about products and services. The survey suggested that US and UK audiences were particularly distrustful of vlogger and blogger recommendations, with 42% of their respondents globally stating that they trust these types of recommendations.
 
In terms of opinions expressed in other forms of online content, the UM survey revealed an overall decline in the level of trust placed in opinions expressed online. In 2017, 54% of respondents stated that they trusted online opinions, but this figure has fallen in subsequent years, standing at 47% in 2019, and 46% in 2018. These statistics are placed into focus by Unilever’s recent decision to cut all “influencers” out of their advertising strategy and overall budget. This decision was taken due to the high incidence of likes and share buying scandals. According to Unilever, which is one of the world’s biggest advertisers, having spent over $9 billion USD on advertising in 2017, it needed to place trust squarely back into the frame and it doubted that using influencers was going help in achieving this.
 
According to the UM survey, trust isn’t the only factor that is in decline. The survey suggests that people are less concerned with social media activity in recent years, perhaps as a result of negative stories surrounding social media, for example the ex Facebook Vice President of User Growth’s suggestion that Facebook users are being biologically programmed without their knowledge. The numbers of respondents in the UM survey who said they would feel like they were missing out if they didn’t check social media has declined from 50% in 2018, to 46% in 2019. Additionally the UM research is suggesting that non-interactive sites like Netflix and Spotify are growing in the face of controversies like Cambridge Analytica.
 
 
Promotion Versus Influence
 
Modern day advertising professionals have devised new methods of “piggybacking” on the popularity and “voice” of self-made stars and celebrities and the influencer phenomenon is part of this evolution. Furthermore, people who have achieved success and recognition through more conventional means, like film and sports stars are exploiting the avenue of user-generated content channels to augment their celebrity and reach. For example, Serena Williams, a well-known athlete has collaborated very successfully with Nike, to increase brand recognition and awareness.
 
The term “influencer” can be misleading though, as some people assume that influencers are called influencers because they influence. This is not always the case. Influencers are mostly hired for promotional purposes, to raise brand awareness and increase brand recognition. Achieving influence through the use of an influencer is a delicate balancing exercise, and it isn’t always achieved by simply hiring a so-called influencer. This is because achieving influence through reaching people is an entirely different matter, compared to influencing people to take positive actions like buying products or trusting and recommending a particular brand or product. Trust is a big factor in distinguishing between these two situations, so retailers are asking how they can use influencers to build brand recognition and also stimulate people into taking positive actions like trusting a brand, buying products or recommending products to friends and family.
 
 
Moving From Promotion to Influence
 
Many experts agree that authenticity is one of the key ingredients in turning mere promotional reach into more definitive actions like actual spending. It is hard to define authenticity, but people know it when they see it. As such, a poorly thought out collaboration with an “influencer” who doesn’t come across to the viewer as genuine will rarely be successful. Retailers choosing influencers should always think very carefully about the basis of any collaboration and what messages they are trying to convey using influencers. They should aim to select credible influencers who can be readily integrated with the brand and the brand messages. Marketing experts are calling this selection process a“fit” i.e. that retailers need to select the right “fit” of influencer.
 
 
How to Build Trust With New Customers
 
Building trust with new customers isn’t rocket science, nor does it require an outlandish campaign involving high profile “influencers”. In fact, much of building trust with new customers revolves around common sense.
 
 
Build and Test a Good Website
 
A new customer is likely to use the quality of a retailer’s website as a means of judging whether the retailer is trustworthy. As such, to inspire trust in new customers, a retailer should ensure they have a well-developed and functional website that is well written and gives lots of useful and helpful information to the customer. Customers like to see an address of a physical premises where a brand is headquartered, as reassurance since many scam websites won’t go to the trouble of providing this level of detail. A customer will often need to see that a retailer has invested in the development of their website as a way of feeling reassured that this is a brand they can trust. Trusted retailers and brands will display watermarks and endorsements from trade bodies, or associations. QVC, a top-rated TV sales channel, reaching 370 million homes, worldwide, is an example of a top-performing website. It prominently displays videos, product information, product endorsements and customer FAQs, as part of a highly user-friendly website.
 
Websites that are up to date are seen as more trustworthy. This is something that was recently highlighted in a Which? study of what customers look for when they shop online. One of the factors that repelled customers the most were products being “sold” and advertised on websites, when in actual fact they were “out of stock”. Customers regarded this as highly inconvenient and in general it decreased the level of trust that a customer was willing to place in a given brand or product.
 
A good website should be tested regularly for “bugs” and its overall level of user-friendliness. Furthermore, websites need to have functionality across a number of different devices. If they don’t it is a major issue that will almost certainly repel customers.
 
 
Social Media Presence
 
Other factors that customers take account of when deciding whether a brand can be trusted or not, is whether they have a social media presence – something a quick “google” search will reveal. If a brand has a social media presence, customers will be interested to find out how up to date and engaging it is. Up to date social media is one hallmark of a brand that cares about its customers because it shows it invests time and resources into building a brand through different channels. This is something that scam websites won’t do, so again it is a good way to differentiate a trusted brand from a scammer.  
 
 
Prices
 
Customers like to shop around to find the best deals online. A study of best and worst online retailers highlighted that when a retailer’s prices are too high for identical products that can be bought elsewhere, this reduces the level of trust they are willing to place in them. Price is a highly variable factor and it can swiftly become out of date, if, for example, competitor websites suddenly reduce their prices for similar or identical products. Retailers can address this issue through the use of price monitoring software, which shows a retailer how their prices compare with their main competitors.
 
 
Shipping and Shopping Channels
 
Shipping is something that a lot of customers factor into their decision when making a purchase. Sometimes customers will pay more for a product overall, if they can be guaranteed a reliable and trouble free shipping process. As such, retailers need to give a lot of thought to their shipping costs and how these compare with their main competitors.
 
 
How Do Customers Hear About New Products and Services?
 
 
When deciding what new products and services to try, shoppers tend to trust word of mouth recommendations from friends and family a great deal, so retailers looking to expand their advertising reach should focus on creating a positive experience for every shopper whether they are shopping online or in a physical store. This will often lead to the word of mouth recommendations, because trust is the key factor that customers are constantly evaluating when they look to invest in new products and services.
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