Survey of 21,000 Shows Online Social Media Reviews Key To Holiday Sales

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Third Annual Survey from Influencer Advocacy Company Social Media Link on Power of Reviews

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Holiday shopping is trend-driven and last-minute. This study suggests that they’re already discovering new products through the power of online reviews. That’s a game-changer, says Susan Frech, CEO, Social Media Link.

This holiday season, peer-to-peer online reviews will influence what goes on shoppers’ lists as 83% say they discover new products on a monthly basis through social media before other sources, and 67% say they always or often seek out family or close friends’ recommendations online while researching a purchase, according to a new survey of over 21,000 active social media users. Recommendations from family and friends have impact for 65% of respondents.

The Social Recommendations Index survey was sponsored and conducted by advocacy activation company Social Media Link. This is the third year that the company has conducted a wide study on the changing impact and influence of online reviews. Here is the infographic with the survey results.

“Holiday shopping is trend-driven and last-minute. Consumers wait to learn what’s hot; then make their lists. This study suggests that they’re already discovering new products through the power of online reviews. That’s a game-changer,” says Susan Frech, CEO, Social Media Link.

Reviews on retailer websites, brand websites and Facebook will impact consumers’ choices more than reviews on other channels. The survey found that consumers trust these channels for the most popular holiday gifts: computers and electronics, personal care items, children’s products and apparel.

“User-generated content, those testimonials, videos and reviews, are what is swaying consumers more than ever this year. Brands that focus on getting their messages out through their consumers, will win all along the path to purchase,” says Frech.

Consumer Are Influenced To Purchase By Fewer Reviews, Trust Friends’ Opinions More

One and done. 18% of those surveyed said that one online review is all it takes to convince them to purchase, as long as the review is from a close friend, family member of colleague. Another 23% say up to four reviews from a variety of sources does the trick.

Video Reviews Significantly More Persuasive Than Last Year

Unlike past seasons, where Facebook reviews held more impact than those on other channels, video reviews are gaining in credibility.

The SRI found that shoppers are using videos for:

  •     Discovery: 46% say they use YouTube to learn about new products and brands, an increase of 9 percentage points from 2014 survey
  •     Research: Close to half (49%) say they use YouTube to gather information before making a purchase, an 11 percentage point increase from last year
  •     Purchase: Two-thirds of those surveyed use video reviews at least some of the time to help make a purchase decision, mostly for computers and electronics (44%), personal care items (44%) and children’s products, including toys (41%).

The survey also found that who produces the video matters.

  •     Video reviews from YouTube reviewers and on Retail websites tied for influencing 64% of the respondents
  •     50% have been influenced by a blogger’s video

“While video reviews on YouTube certainly hold sway for consumers, it’s important to note that video on Facebook is gaining. I predict that by next holiday season year, we’ll see the balance of video reviewing tipping to Facebook,” says Frech.

Brand Sponsored Reviews Are Still Trusted, But The Source Matters

In an era where many bloggers, vloggers and Instagram personalities are getting paid big bucks for reviews, the Social Recommendation Index found that these pay-for-play reviews are trusted by fewer people than reviews from a family member or friend who received a free product to review.

  •     87% of respondents said they trust a review or recommendation from a friend or family member if they receive a free product or experience with the brand, compared to 71% of respondents who trusted reviews or recommendations from social media influencers receiving a free product in exchange for a review
  •     Conversely, 46% of respondents trust pay-for-play reviews by social media influencers they follow
  •     Only 23% say they trust a celebrity’s endorsement

Celebrity endorsements don’t matter when researching products, either:

  •     Only 11% say they check out what a celebrity has to say about a purchase when researching products

“It’s abundantly clear that what consumers think and post online about products and services impact every stage in the path to purchase. Brands that can figure out how to leverage real people to share their opinions in different ways on different channels will win this holiday season and well into 2016.” says Frech.

Survey Methodology: The Social Recommendations Index is an online quantitative survey, issued to members within the Smiley360 community in September, 2015. 21,258 respondents from Smiley360’s community answered a 23-question online survey.

For questions about the survey, please contact Jordan.Ben(at)socialmedialink(dot)com

Respondents’ Demographic Profile:

  •     94% Female; 6% Male
  •     1% Under 18
  •     27% 18-29
  •     40% 30-39
  •     21% 40-49
  •     9% 50-59
  •     2% 60 and over

About Social Media Link
Social Media Link (SML) is the leading advocacy activation company that amplifies social media conversation for brands. SML makes it easy for brands to activate impactful and trusted reviews and recommendations across social media, triggering action and leading consumers through the path to purchase.

SML’s robust advocate marketing solutions allow marketers to seamlessly cultivate and mobilize targeted consumers, at scale, to share reviews and content with the social audiences they influence. SML’s proprietary Single-Click Sharing℠ technology makes it easy for advocates to feed reviews to their most preferred social networks in one place, giving brands enormous exposure with comprehensive analytics, ensuring visibility and measurement.

Since 2009, SML is proud to work with clients like Unilever, P&G, Church & Dwight, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Pfizer, NBC, Kimberly Clark and more.

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Jordan Ben
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