Engagement Labs: Word Of Mouth Still Counts

For the past few years, brand marketers assumed that social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram could entice consumers to engage with brands and make purchase decisions but, the reality of the situation is much more complex, according to Engagement Labs.

What the market research firm identifies as Category Crusher Brands engage in social media but go well beyond to establish relationships with consumers by becoming part of their everyday conversations.

Among the Category Crusher Brands that Engagement Labs identifies is Ikea, in the Home category, Nordstrom in the Retail/Apparel category. Others are BMW, Gatorade, American Express and Dove.

Although consumers use social media for a variety of reasons, face-to-face word of mouth recommendations made by family and friends remain a vital force in consumer purchase decision-making. Consumers cite personal recommendations from close associates as the most trusted source of information. Indeed, the volume of real world conversations about brands dwarfs the conversations that take place on social media, often by a factor of five to one, according to Engagement Labs’ word of mouth tracking data. At the same time, sales impact from offline conversation is greater than the effect of social media.

Engagement Labs conducted what it characterizes as a first-of-its-kind analysis of combined online and offline consumer conversation data and established which are the Category Crushers, or, in other words, the brands that outperform their competitors in social media performance and offline word of mouth recommendations.

Social media continues to grow at a rapid rate, with daily active users of Twitter increasing 11% year-over-year, and Facebook daily active user numbers increasing 18%, Engagement Labs noted. Still, retailers and their suppliers need to understand that most consumers continue to look to their peers for face-to-face advice and recommendations about their favorite brands, which has a decided effect on their purchase decisions.

“You don’t have to be a hot tech company like Apple or Amazon to excite people about your brand and generate consumer conversations that drive sales. But a total social approach to consumer advocacy is a must for success, as we see reflected in this data analysis. The Category Crushers cited in our report understand that social influence goes beyond a screen, and the consumer conversations they generate and amplify in-person can make a bigger boost to their overall social performance than those occurring exclusively on social media,” said Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs.