New year 2018: Expect digital technology to transform consumer behaviour

Digital technology has witnessed a dramatic growth, a rapid evolution and a total integration into everyone’s life. 2018 could be a year where perhaps the deepest impact of how consumers consume and marketers sell products and services may be felt.

Way back in 2009, IPG saw a need to help our clients get a better understanding of how digital disruption was changing consumer behaviour. No longer was the consumer learning about a product or service just from a print ad or a TV commercial. She was also confronted with information via websites, blogs, social media, price/product comparison sites, mobile platforms…and, oh yes, increasingly from friends down the street.

It is for this that IPG and their group company FCB Cogito Consulting have fielded an important global research that covers seven countries viz. India, Russia, Brazil, China, South Africa as well as the USA and UK. The 600 sample per country is split across youth, young adults and baby boomers, male and female split being 50-50 in each age group. The group recently completed the fifth wave of this research and the results are more than interesting. Here are some interesting consumer trends for 2018 that our study brought to light.

The use of brand knowledge as social currency: Which country do you expect to score the highest on “initiating product conversations and actively advocating brands?” One of the developed countries? No. It’s India. We not only scored highest on this parameter, but also on:

  • “giving brand opinions to friends more often”
  • “regularly consult blogs (and social media) for finding new ideas about products”

When these ratings are seen together, one gets a picture of a very rapidly growing consumer referrals activity that is influencing consumer choice. Further, the scores on these parameters have risen so rapidly over the four waves that marketers can ignore this trend only at their own peril. Interestingly, the key reason for the rise in advocacy is not fiscal. It is the feeling of being valued and admired for expertise in products and categories.

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and Ceo, Fcb india

More honesty and transparency from brands: The AT Kearney Global Future Consumer Study has shown a dramatic increase in consumers who want authenticity, truth and transparency from brands and large corporations. Similarly, the latest wave of our study confirms one more time that in all countries (except Russia), consumers are holding brands to a higher standard. Year after year, India tops the list. So widespread is this trend that according to the Edelman Global Trust barometer, two-thirds of all countries are now considered “distrusters”, with “trust” levels under 50 per cent. What’s behind such a widespread request from consumers for transparency, truth and authenticity? The rise of “fake” news.

No wonder among Indian consumers, the rating on “I am spending more time evaluating products” has gone up rapidly. But not all information on digital media is equally trusted. In six out of seven countries in survey, including India, consumers are claiming that they always seek out trusted sources of information.

Where is this trusted information to be found? In the US, Brazil, China and India, consumers are admitting to having made purchases based on the recommendation of someone whose content they follow on social media. Bridging this trust deficit will be the key challenge for marketers in 2018?

The rise of the last mile influencer: Another interesting finding is the rise of YouTube and WhatsApp in India in the area of influence and advocacy. YouTube (66%), WhatsApp (64%), Facebook (63%), are the top three trusted channel lists (figures in the bracket show % respondents giving 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 ratings).Google+ (59%), Twitter (59%) and Instagram (55%) follow that.

With the rise in this last mile influencer, does advertising lose its importance? The study points out that advertising is required to enter the conversations between the influencer and the buyer. Further, there is a strong agreement in India on “brand names and brand reputation matter more these days than ever before”, even among young Indian consumers.

Overall, the study has brought out how passionate and keen Indian consumers are in seeking, using and sharing information about brands and categories. It is certainly something the Indian marketers need to take cognisance of.

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