It is clear from this research that the passive impact of Social Media is changing our decision making.

What do we mean by the passive impact? The mass of consumer content or opinion (coming from an active minority) and social data, including usage statistics, ratings and buying behaviour data (coming from the passive majority) is impacting every single person who goes online.

On an immediate level it has massively changed the results we see in search. Try searching for any product and brand and you will see how dominant consumer content is becoming, the majority of results returned when searching for specific products or brands are consumer generated. This is absolutely key because we know how critical search is in guiding all purchase decisions:

  • The web is an inherently purchase orientated space. It’s a high motivation in all markets and ranks top in most established web markets, for example the number one motivation to get online in the UK and Germany is to “research / find products to buy”.
  • Nearly all users are using search to inform purchase decisions; 85% looked for specific product information in the last month and 49% for product recommendations. Increasingly this utilisation of search to inform buying decisions ends up in consumer content and opinion.
  • For many products, regardless of the whether purchased on or offline, the web is a key research tool. The chart above shows the percentage of buyers in the last 6 months researched that product online prior to purchase and demonstrates the extent of this impact by category. A massive number of purchases are impacted by what is written and published online.
  • We also know from this study that consumers trust consumer created content and opinions from their network more than the professional sources of opinion. For example people who read blogs trust that source more than a store assistant, an amazing notion and one that demonstrates how key it is for all organisations in the public eye to engage in the social web.

In the future the social ecosystem will have even more impact on purchase decisions as our social graph will be directly laid over search results (e.g this search result was favoured or written by a friend / a contact / someone in your network / a person like you), making ever query we input into the web subject to social filtering. We will also see social data overlaid onto mobile devices through augmented reality. This will allow you to get real-time, location specific recommendations on any product or service; a radical and fundamental change in the way that we buy.

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