During the 6th Annual M2W®-The Marketing To Women Conference, SheSpeaks  CEO Aliza Freud shared some interesting insight from the agency’s latest Shopper Marketing Study—which was conducted jointly with iVillage—that showed engagement with women through online community websites, forums and message boards all had a dramatic influence on driving product preference, loyalty and ultimately, purchase.  According to the study, 77% of women say that they are more likely to look for a product in a store after reading a review about it on a community forum or message board and the majority, 67%, are also more likely to make an in-store purchase as a result of reading about it on a community forum or message board.

The study showed that while social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are valuable communications channels, with 51% of women actively following brands and retailers online, these channels were cited as relatively less influential in prompting purchases (19%). Other digital channels such as online coupons (68%), online product reviews by consumers (61%), emails from companies/brands (45%) and articles read online (41%) are much more influential.

“When it comes to building preference and motivating in-store sales, digital is emerging as a strong contender. If brands can motivate trusted customer recommendations and couple them with a “call to action” such as a coupon, it’s a powerful one-two punch that drives sales and advocacy,” says Freud.

Additional highlights from the study:

  • Digital communications have an impact on a variety of brand-related behaviors. Peer recommendations about products on message boards makes women more likely to look for a product in the store (77%), more favorable about the product while shopping (74%), more likely to choose the brand/product over others (70%) and more likely to purchase the product in the store (67%).
  • The influence of digital channels varies greatly. Although 51% of women are fans or followers of grocery, health/beauty or household products brands and the stores that carry them, consumer reviews on shopping sites are a top influence for 61% of respondents. Online articles, by comparison, are a top influence with 35% of respondents saying that reading online content (articles) is more influential now than one year ago. Blogs were also identified as an influence by 33% of respondents. Facebook and Twitter fall to the bottom of the list with only 19% saying that posts from friends and 11% saying that posts from brands, are top influencers.
  • Whether from online or offline sources, coupons and other consumers’ opinions are the top influencers of purchase decisions of food/beverage, health/beauty and household products. Online coupons (68%), store coupons (66%), consumer reviews on shopping sites (61%) and online recommendations from friends (59%) are the top influencers. Sixty percent also say that online coupons are more influential on their purchases now than one year ago and 51% say consumer recommendations on websites are more influential.
  • Women are using the Internet to make shopping decisions. 81% of women have visited a superstore website in the past month, 70% visited a food/beverage brand website and 69% visited a health/beauty brand website. They also actively read email newsletters they receive from companies (61% read emails from food/beverage brands, 55% from health and beauty brands and 53% from superstores).
  • Women spend between 6 and 60 minutes preparing for a shopping trip. This preparation includes doing product research online and offline, looking for coupons in multiple channels, reading email newsletters, etc. Although research channels used most vary by product category (ex: food/beverage vs. health/beauty), it is clear that brand marketers need to understand which are the most influential digital channels for their specific product.

The Executive Summary of The Shopper Marketing study can be found at http://www.shespeaks.com/digitalshoppers