Social Media And Consumer Behaviour
From staying connected and sharing experiences, to social shopping and championing social causes, social media has been very much integrated into our daily lives today. There is no doubt that businesses everywhere — big and small — are turning to the platform where their audience are at in order to connect with them.
According to HubSpot, consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals, which explains the increasing reliance businesses have on social media. These days, with everything going digital, it is important to recognise the many ways in which social media can influence and impact consumers’ behaviour.
What is Consumer Behaviour?
Consumer behaviour refers to the series of decisions and actions that consumers take, which in turn, influences their purchase of a particular product or service (Source: Iresearchservices.com). Hence, understanding what makes consumers tick, can give insight to brands that wish to market their products and services to them. According to the Australian College of Marketing, here are some factors that can influence consumer behaviour.
Age, occupation, and lifestyle — these are all personal factors that can affect one’s behaviour. Our lifestage, level of income, and how many family members we have to look after, can affect what we buy. Our lifestyles also play another important role in influencing the things we buy — are we workaholics that have little time for leisure and need more time-saving and productivity devices, or are we health & fitness enthusiasts that don’t mind spending a little more on athletic apparel and organic food?
This refers to our motivations, needs, attitudes and perceptions. What we buy is significantly influenced by our goals and needs in life, which also depends on where we are on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (Image: thoughtco.com).
Someone who may be lower down the hierarchy might be more concerned about putting food on the table everyday and paying the monthly rent, rather than getting a new car or laptop. How we perceive the world can also influence consumer behaviour. You might view the world as a more positive or negative place, which will in turn affect what you purchase or how you would react to certain marketing messages. Certain attitudes can also lead people to behave in certain ways. For marketers, the goal often involves changing unfavorable attitudes to favor the brand instead. However, changing people’s attitudes is not always an easy thing, which is why leveraging celebrities and influencers to build certain brand associations is a common technique used to address this.
This concerns who we surround ourselves with. As social beings, we are influenced by the people around us — our family, friends, and even the people whom we aspire to be. Even the culture we grow up in can influence our preferences and behaviours. For instance, growing up and being exposed to a more Western culture will affect the way we dress, act, and what we might be interested in.
Now that you have understood the basic factors influencing consumer behaviour, let’s explore the consumer buying process.
The Consumer Buying Process
These are the 6 stages that consumers usually go through before purchasing an item.
1. Problem Recognition
As rational beings, consumers often look for a reason to purchase a product before actually doing so. For marketers, this poses as a marketing opportunity. To start this buying process, identify the problem — or as marketers term, the customer “pain point” — through gathering insights. Once the brand has a clear understanding of what the problem is, it’s time to educate customers about it. This can be done by seeding content that helps highlight this problem to customers who may not yet be aware of it.
2. Information Search
After a customer becomes aware of the problem, they usually start to get interested in searching for solutions to that problem. This is where businesses can start to establish their brands as an expert in the specific field, by showing customers that you have the solution and the credibility for it. Build up your backlinks and referrals, and share some facts or testimonials of what your product or service can do to help solve those problems. Doing so pushes you ahead of the competition and gets you where you need to be — in front of these information-seeking customers. This creates the desire in customers for your product or service as they recognise it as a problem-solving need.
3. Evaluation of Product
Here is when customers are well aware of your brand and what products and services you have to offer. However, this does not guarantee immediate purchase. Consumers are going to want to compare this with other options in the market before they make a decision. There are several techniques that you can employ to ensure that you still have the upper hand. Insurance provider Geico gives customers the option to compare their rates with other insurance providers, without leaving their website (Source: business2community.com). This helps to keep the focus on the brand, addresses another customer “pain point” by simplifying the tedious process of comparing sites, and ultimately building a trusting customer relationship.
4. Purchase Decision
At this point, the consumer has seen all the different options — their functions, benefits and pricings, and it is time to make their decision. This is the most important stage of all as it determines whether the consumer will actually purchase your product or not, so time to step up the marketing game. Try to instill a sense of confidence and security in your product by providing them with as much information as possible. This also shows the transparency and sincerity of your brand. Remember to tell them how your product is the best option for solving their problem. What about those who have already walked away? Don’t worry, because there is still a chance to bring them back. Simple email reminders or retargeting can help to reintroduce your brand to them. In fact, it may even be more effective later on given the brand familiarity that has already been built.
Congratulations, a customer has now decided to purchase your product! Your goal now is to make the purchase experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible, so that you would not lose them at these crucial, final moments. In fact, a great purchase experience can also have the potential to convert one-time purchase customers into loyal, repeat-purchase customers. The key here is to keep it simple. Track the purchasing process, and always think of ways to improve it. Is the online payment process too complicated? Does the product page load too slow? Remember that if the purchasing process is too difficult or frustrating, you will start to lose customers.
6. Post-Purchase Evaluation
Once purchase has been successfully made, don’t close the book just yet. The post-purchase or after-sales follow up is equally important in leaving a lasting impression for a brand. This is the final stage where you can add the extra touches to build customer satisfaction and loyalty. For online purchases, one small thing that can come in handy is the packaging of your product. Be it a small or big purchase, customers always appreciate the out-of-box experience, so don’t cut back on your packaging. Take a look at Chanel for example. Their simple yet elegant packaging aligns with their brand identity, furthermore giving customers an added dimension of satisfaction and experience when they unbox their purchases later (Image: Swedbrandgroup.com).
Smaller online businesses are aware of this too and tend to throw in a thank you card for every purchase made, in order to make it more personable. The goal here is to make sure that your customers are satisfied with the overall purchase experience because this can increase the chances of them re-purchasing from you again, or even recommending your product to others.
Why exactly do we need to know this? Well, getting a deeper insight into the thought processes of consumers when making a purchase, can help you to know when, where and how exactly you can market to them effectively. Always remember that each stage should ultimately help contribute to higher conversions and increase customer loyalty. Do note that this process applies for both offline and online purchases.
4 Ways Social Media Influences Consumer Behaviour
1. Build brand awareness
In order to be able to influence your consumers’ behaviour, they have to first be aware of your brand. Today, a significant volume of brand discovery happens on social media, that’s why a brand’s online presence is of utmost importance. One way to build online brand presence and awareness on social media is through User Generated Content (UGC). This refers to the content created by users online, where they share their experiences with the brand.
In fact, 84% of millennials say UGCs from strangers have influenced their purchase decisions in one way or another (Source: gartner.com). Thus, UGC is not only great in influencing the buying behaviour of users by generating referrals online, but also allows the brand to gain more exposure in doing so.
One example of this is Lush Cosmetics, where they use the hashtag #lushshowandtell to encourage their followers to post any brand-related content.
Their Instagram story highlight ‘Show and Tell’ is where they park their UGCs by reposting users’ stories about their products and product experiences. Featuring users’ content will make that particular user feel valued, so not only will this give the brand more reach, but will also help to strengthen the relationship between the brand and the customer. This is Lush‘s way of selling their products and services without coming off as overly aggressive or hard selling.
2. Social proof
Social media has intensified the power of social proof as a way to influence consumer buying decisions. Social Proof refers to the tendency to imitate the behaviours of people around us, or people who have influence over us (Source: Medium.com). Many perceive reviews and recommendations from real customers to be more trustworthy than recommendations from the brand itself. Given the consumer shift that favors brand transparency and authenticity, testimonials, reviews and case studies from satisfied customers can help to build a sense of trust and increase conversion rates. So don’t underestimate the power of social proof.
3. Promotions and discounts
When it comes to shopping, most people can’t turn down a good discount or promotion. This age-old, timeless marketing tactic still works like a charm. 64% of online consumers said that they often wait for things to go on sale before they buy them (Source: invespcro.com). Some customers, upon seeing a discount, will convince themselves that they need to buy that product, all to avoid missing out on a good deal. So why not amplify the power of promotions by communicating it on a platform that can get you greater reach? By shouting out your promotions on social media either through subtle, organic means, or paid ads, this can increase the number of eyeballs and the resultant sharing that comes with these platforms. After all, social media is a sharing platform and as the saying goes “good things must share” or in our case, “good deals must share”.
4. Social media influencers
With the rise of social media comes the popularity of its influencers. Similar to how social proof works, consumers are more likely to get influenced by the recommendations of their favourite influencers and thus, influence their buying behaviour. This is often known as the bandwagon effect which is when people choose to do something because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs which they may ignore or override (Source: Investopedia.com).
Jess Conte, with a following of 2.2 million followers, uploaded a post of her wearing Coach’s citysole sneakers (Image: Instagram). The opinions of a fashion and lifestyle YouTuber like her, will likely have a greater weight and influence on the fashion choices and buying decisions of her followers.
From the same brand, Coach has also gotten one of their brand ambassadors, Selena Gomez, to upload a post of her with one of their bags (Image: Instagram). With a massive following of 178 million followers, there is no doubt that some of her followers who look up to her, will feel inclined to purchase that bag too.
Impressive, isn’t it? How influencer marketing can do wonders in helping a brand get more customers. No wonder more and more brands are turning to influencer marketing.
Don’t worry, we’ll be covering more on Influencer Marketing in our upcoming article.
Platforms to Look Out for
After all that’s said about social media and its influence on the important consumer buying process, this brings us to the next question that you are probably already thinking — so which social media platforms should I invest my time and effort in?
Despite Facebook being around for a long time, it continues to stand strong. According to Business Insider, Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals, and 64% of overall social revenue. Given Facebook’s user demographics that comprises 84% ‘25-30 year olds’ and 79% ‘30-49 year olds’, brands that are targeting this age group can consider using this platform (Source: sproutsocial.com).
With Instagram, we witnessed the rise of social media influencers and influencer marketing. Prior to this, being a full-time influencer was virtually unheard of. As such, a lot of social media influencers can be found on this platform. Furthermore, with its growing number of features such as shoppable Instagram posts and embedded links in Instagram stories that can direct users to a shop’s landing page, Instagram is a powerful platform to influence the consumer buying process. Instagram’s user demographics generally sees a slightly younger crowd as compared to Facebook. It comprises 75% ‘18 – 24 year olds’ and 57% ‘25 – 30 year olds’ (Source: sproutsocial.com).
Despite being relatively new, Tik Tok is taking over the social media landscape by storm. More and more businesses are jumping on to Tik Tok, creating a brand presence, brand challenges and branded ads. Many have also started to create and post their own content, even showcasing behind-the-scenes videos of how their products are made. With its fair share of functions such as social commerce links and brand takeover-ads, this is another great platform to offer a seamless consumer buying journey, even without having to leave the app itself. Popular amongst the Gen Zs, 69% of Tiktok’s user base are 13-24 years olds (Source: blog.hootsuite.com).
You might be thinking, words only? However, Twitter is a popular platform for people to recommend brands. In fact, 53% of consumers recommend businesses or products through tweets, and a further 48% tend to follow through to purchase (Source: awario.com). Apart from using this platform to vocalise their opinions and recommendations, Twitter users also rely on it to learn more about the products and services they are interested in. 44% of Twitter users are aged 18 to 24 years old (Source: sproutsocial.com).
All in all, it’s time to acknowledge the potential of social media — not just as a marketing communications tool, but in how it has the ability to play a huge role in influencing your brand’s consumer buying journey. If used properly, social media can become an essential tool not just for increasing vanity metrics, but to eventually aid your consumers down the sales funnel to the point of conversion. If you ever need advice on improving your social media marketing strategy, feel free to contact us, and we’ll be happy to help!