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Social Media Series Identifies Top Five Trends in Online Consumer Behavior

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The Internet, including social media, is increasingly at the heart of everything people do, changing the way consumers interact with one another and the commercial world around them. Both have proven to be powerful tools for brands to generate and measure buzz and the result is a wealth of online consumer conversations.

In the first of a quarterly set of social media trend updates, Mintel's expert social media analyst team announces the top five trends in online consumer marketplace behavior identified from high-level research into the strategies employed by Fortune 500 companies across the US.

Mintel's social media analysts Gabi Lieberman and Lizz Martinez discuss the top five key trends--and their impact on the current social media marketplace:

1. The power of peers in high-spend sectors

Mintel's Inspire trend Influentials highlights how we now live in an era

where the Internet has democratized information and the consumer is now the

PR piece. It is little wonder therefore that in the high value and

infrequent purchase sectors, consumers are keener to garner pre-purchase

opinion from family, friends and their online communities. Within

lower-value everyday items, online conversation typically focuses on

post-purchase opinions and experiences. "This is particularly true of

online discussion around restaurants as restaurant-goers are encouraged to

leave reviews for other prospective diners. Brands have taken to leveraging

the power of geolocation, which has expanded beyond the just check-ins in

apps such as Foursquare, wherein brands are finding new ways to encourage

people to share their reviews, photos and check-ins with their friends,"

notes Lizz Martinez.

2. The influence of online chatter in the mobile phone market

"According to consumer research run for Mintel's Social Media series, an

average 16% of people look up reviews of mobile phone brands. Despite

long-term mobile phone contracts, an average of just one in ten mobile

phone users researched reviews of mobile service providers online. As the

battle between the iPhone and Android continues to rage offline, these are

the two brands that people are most likely to search the internet for

reviews on as they seek to make up their own mind about taking the plunge

or switching to the other side," says Gabi Lieberman. Despite having no

official social media pages, the wealth of information on the iPhone

overshadows the Android brand (securing more than 8.7 million online

mentions between August and December 2012 compared with Android's 4.7

million). With a higher proportion of adults having heard of but never used

the iPhone (67% vs. 58% for Android), it bears out that the wealth of

online reviews will no doubt go some way to helping to convert those

thinking of buying one.

3. Fictional characters help the unease of financial markets

The financial services market can be confusing and difficult to navigate

(26% of consumers said that they think it is important to shop around and

get quotes from a number of different insurance providers when their policy

is due for renewal according to data conducted for Mintel's Property and

Casualty Insurance - US, February 2013). Visiting a brand's website or

social media page is the leading interaction among property and casualty

insurance brands. This is unlike consumer goods markets, suggesting that

knowledge and information are more important than discounts. The use of

friendly--albeit fictional--characters by financial brands such as GEICO's

Gecko and Progressive's spokeswoman Flo serve as key conversation vehicles

to drive discussion online, helping to reduce trepidation consumers may

feel toward the topic of finance. "Within the healthcare sector, Mucinex

uses "Mr. Mucus" as the voice behind its Facebook posts, helping to add

personality to an otherwise seemingly unapproachable topic of OTC

medication," adds Gabi Lieberman.

4. Online behaviors more impactful on consumer behavior

"With rising broadband penetration and smartphone ownership, would-be

consumers are increasingly turning to information online to guide purchase

decisions and opinions. This is particularly the case within the emerging

consumer market of beauty devices. US beauty devices dominate online

engagement with its brands," says Gabi Lieberman. Out of the brands so far

analyzed throughout the Social Media series, the Clarisonic brand secured

the highest degree of online engagement with a third of users (32%) looking

up reviews of the brand. Further, 25% have visited its website, Twitter or

Facebook page.

5. Innovative campaigns to influence the future

"As brands increasingly get involved in through-the-line promotion,

campaigns need to get more creative in order to stand out from the

competition. The Lay's "Do us a Flavor" Campaign demonstrates the power of

taking a contest and creating engaging content based on consumer entries.

As well as creating images and infographics on the most submitted flavors,

Lay's was also able to pinpoint regional preferences for different flavors

and ingredients. Domino's has done a great job at remaining transparent

throughout its rebranding process. Its dedication to customer satisfaction

is shown through its pizza tracker, posting tweets and live feedback around

the brand's virtual pizza tracker displayed in Times Square, and

continually engaging with its fans and followers online," concludes Lizz

Martinez. In the first report series of its kind, social media analysts Gabrielle Lieberman and Elizabeth Martinez, cut through the noise to identify relevant consumer insight to help brands fine-tune their online strategies and drive campaigns that appeal to popular cultural trends.

Notes to Editors

Meet Mintel's Social Media Experts Gabrielle Lieberman brings to Mintel keen awareness of effective social media strategies, having created the social media foundation for Crain's Chicago Business, where she also worked as a researcher. Prior to joining Mintel, Elizabeth Martinez spent two years at NM Insight, a division of Nielsen, researching online consumer-generated media and developing analyses and strategic recommendations. The Social Media Series includes eight reports a month, with each focusing on a different sector. Within each report, at least six brands are analyzed, drawing insight into how consumers interact with brands and how those brand interactions compare with one another.

Gabrielle and Elizabeth are available for perspective and interviews.

About Mintel Mintel is a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence. For more than 40 years, Mintel has provided insight into key worldwide trends, offering exclusive data and analysis that directly impacts client success. With offices in Chicago, New York, London, Sydney, Shanghai, Tokyo, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Sao Paulo, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand.

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