Research into the digital habits of the region’s consumers reveals an increasing tendency to look online for information before purchase, according to Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO of TNS MENA. He confirmed that the recently-published Digital Life study by TNS indicates that 48 percent of internet users access brand websites for product information before making a purchase. Meanwhile, 39 percent navigate social networking sites in search of user commentary and product reviews.
“There is a rising demand by consumers across most markets to keep up-to-date with their brands of choice. For some the motivation is promotions and offers, for others it is about access to general information and a deeper feeling of brand proximity.” He said that the TNS Digital Life study, which surveyed 60,000 respondents globally, found that 20 percent of actual in-store sales are influenced by pre-purchase digital touch points, suggesting that brands must be the driver of information before user-generated material takes hold.
“As we all get more internet savvy, we are finding new ways to use the online world and product research is one of them. Brands and retailers can take advantage of our increasing comfort with digital connectivity to further build brand loyalty among customers, fans and advocates. “Indeed, marketers across all segments must consider how we are embracing self-managed, online research to guide our lifestyles as they consider winning business and marketing strategies. Brands that ignore the power of digital communication channels do so at their peril,” he warned. He said that the good news is that so much can be gleaned from online user analytics for use across all stages of marketing planning, from innovation, product development, marketing promotions and customer service. This information can be used to make the case for revolutionary changes in the way that the brand conducts business.
“The reality is that the digital shift is transforming consumer buying patterns. If ever the prompt to purchase was linear and straightforward, it is no longer the case. Consumers are now wired to search and absorb information from the vast array of online sites, often posting questions to other users and reviewers as an easy way of gathering fresh, specific commentary.” He also warned that the kind of information consumers seek, as well as their motivation to purchase, varies widely and that expectations often run much deeper than just researching online.
“The depth of personalisation that is possible online is creating the desire for a richer and more individual experience. Thus, the pressure is on for brands to find a way to meet the consumer demands for a vast array of easily-accessible information and interaction. Businesses can do this through digital channels and e-marketing.” He suggested that the retail sector particularly needs to jump online fast and bring the shop floor to life in the digital world.
“Digital by nature has to be compelling and engaging. From a consumer perspective, digital is less about brands talking about themselves and more about their needs being fulfilled. It is the nimble businesses who are fast integrating both offline and online channels who are in with the chance of enhanced growth,” he concluded.