2012 Digital Influence Index Shows Internet as Leading Influence in Consumer Purchasing Choices

January 31, 2012

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Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive Annual Global Study Reveals Online Opinions Eclipse Offline Relationships

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 31, 2012 – Consumers have more ways to mine for information about companies than ever before. While the Internet trumps all other sources, including advice from friends and family, the ability to reach consumers with a consistent message across the variety of channels available – such as social channels – is key to thriving in the ever-changing and competitive landscape.

That is one of the key findings of the global 2012 Digital Influence Index, released today by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications in conjunction with Harris Interactive. With the addition of India, this third edition of the study now includes Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Collectively, these eight nations represent more than half of the world's online population and more than 60 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP).

The Digital Influence Index measures several key aspects of consumers' Internet usage, from media consumption patterns to involvement in social networking to making choices about politics, healthcare and finance.

“We're witnessing a sea change in process,” said Dave Senay, Fleishman-Hillard president and CEO. “Today, the collective voice of the Internet is eclipsing the persuasive power of family, friends or colleagues when it comes to influencing purchase decisions. Our survey shows the tremendous opportunity that today's tech-savvy consumer presents. Marketers need to maximize their online channels to make it easy for consumers to interact with and access information about their brands.”

For the first time on the survey, Canada reported that the Internet is now more influential overall in purchasing decisions than family and friends. Comparatively, in the U.S., the Internet rated about equal in importance (46 percent compared with 47 percent for family and friends). The Internet's greatest sway was in Asia, where the gap between the influence of the Internet and that of family and friends was 9 percent in China (79 percent to 70 percent) and nearly twice that in India (79 percent to 60 percent).

Four other key findings illustrate the breadth of opportunities for marketers to reach consumers via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as through online gaming and game consoles:

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (42 percent) currently follow or friend a brand on a social networking site. While the reasons vary widely by country, the overall greatest motivation: to learn more about the brand (79 percent).
  • Nearly one in five individuals now looks to Facebook to obtain information about a brand or product.
  • Almost two out of three consumers surveyed use a mobile/smartphone to gain information on a brand, product or destination at least three or four days a week.
  • Overall, 43 percent of consumers have played a game with other people on a PC, and 28 percent have done so using a mobile device.

This year's Digital Influence Index produced a total of 11 key insights into the influence the Internet wields in consumers' lives. A sampling of other findings includes:

  • Eighty-nine percent of consumers surveyed use Internet search engines to make purchasing decisions, punctuating the need for a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
  • Group-buying sites are gaining popularity, with two-thirds of consumers claiming awareness of services like Groupon and LivingSocial – with 60 percent of those respondents belonging to such sites.
  • When choosing healthcare products and services, 75 percent said they rely on online information.

For statistics and analysis of how all 11 key findings affect consumers’ purchasing decisions worldwide, a complimentary copy of the 2012 Digital Influence Index white paper can be downloaded.

About the Digital Influence Index
The Digital Influence Index is a joint venture between Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive. The project was designed and led by Fleishman-Hillard's digital research group, a team within the agency's network focused on providing research that supports the digital transformation of communications. Analysis and insight development was conducted in partnership with Harris Interactive.

Harris Interactive conducted fieldwork for this study through a comprehensive, 15-minute online survey among a representative sample of 4,612 Internet users in China, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, India and the United Kingdom.

This work took place between May and June 2011. Respondents to the survey were recruited from the various panels managed by Harris Interactive across the markets surveyed. The data was weighted to online population targets, including those based on age, gender, education, region and Internet usage. Further weighting was applied to the analysis of the combined results to reflect the online population sizes in each country.

The Digital Influence Index was constructed by factoring in both consumption of a medium and the importance consumers attach to that consumption. Respondents were allowed to give various media a score out of 100 for the amount of time they spend on them and then rate how important this time is to their decisions. Consumption and importance were each scored out of 100 to produce a percentage score for each and a total score out of 200. This latter score is halved to produce a combined percentage score that sums up the influence of the medium.

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About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.