Media Release: Pan-European study reveals online advocacy as the most influential communications channel

WEBER Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms, announces the findings of its exclusive pan-European study into the media habits of European consumers.

Providing an insight into the communication channels that influence consumer opinion and purchase habits, the survey – entitled INLINE Communications – examined the media habits of consumers across six major European markets (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom). The major finding of the research was that European consumers today rely on many different types of media not just to form opinions but also to influence one another.  The key findings were that:

  • Young European consumers are more influenced by the traditional media than their older counterparts.
  • Over half of European consumers under the age of 35 expressed a desire to interact with brands via social networks.
  • Advertising is cited as having the least influence on Europeans’ purchase decisions.
  • Many European consumers do not wholly accept what they read online until they have checked the facts in mainstream, traditional media.
  • INLINE Profiles are fairly consistent across all European markets.

The findings specific to the UK found that online advocacy – defined as online user reviews and recommendations – has replaced recommendations from friends and family as the most influential channel for European consumers. It is the most influential source of information with every market surveyed citing online reviews as their principal source of information (26 per cent).

The reviews and recommendations of friends and family (20 per cent) was cited by all markets surveyed as the second most influential communications channel for consumer purchase decisions. The importance of traditional media (television and radio, newspapers and magazines) was apparent in its level of influence across all markets, with 23 per cent of UK respondents quoting the mainstream media (broadcast (11 per cent) and print (12per cent)) as their principal source of information.

With just ten per cent of UK consumers citing its relevance, mainstream advertising was found to have the least influence of all communication channels on consumer purchase habits and buying decisions.

However, while online research is referenced as the most influential channel, the continued importance of traditional media as a ‘proof point’ is apparent with 43 per cent of European consumers not believing what they have read online until they have checked the facts in the traditional media.

The survey also found that one in three of (31 per cent) of UK consumers stated that they would be interested in interacting with their favourite brands via social networking sites, while 24 per cent were strongly opposed to the concept.

Commenting on the importance of the new research, Nora Senior, managing director of Weber Shandwick in Scotland, said: “The maturing of Web 2.0 has dramatically changed the communications landscape. Our research demonstrates that anyone seeking to influence consumers today can no longer afford to view online and offline separately, or indeed use online tools as a mere add-on to traditional PR campaigns.  Businesses now need to integrate all channels into a holistic communications approach to create advocates who will carry their message—something we call INLINE communications.”

James Warren, Weber Shandwick’s chief digital strategist, added: “This survey has provided us with an interesting insight into consumer behaviour and proves that there is no such thing as the ‘average consumer’. Each individual age demographic and country is influenced in their own specific way, which shows us that there is a real need to create INLINE communications campaigns that can effectively target each and every media outlet. I hope this is something brands and businesses will begin to take into consideration.”

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