Marrying the offline – online customer conversations

Marketers have always believed and rightly so that word of mouth is an important driver when it comes to making a purchase decision. The advent of social media, especially with platforms such as facebook & twitter, marketers have a primary source to listen to what consumers are talking about.  Yet a recent research by Engagement Lab showed that in this digital driven world, both offline & online conversations drive purchase decisions but they require separate marketing strategies.  Along with digital, the study focused on offline-conversations – those that occur face-to-face at the office lunch room, over the dining table or at a party.

Impact on Sale

For the 21 brands that were studied during the research, 9% of the purchase decisions were traced back to conversations and engagements that happened on social media. A slightly larger share of 10% was driven by offline conversations. This means that 19% of the US consumers were influenced to purchase due to conversations between friends, families colleagues and others.

Influenced by the product / categories

The conversations had a notable different effect across products and categories. A fairly common assumption is that the technology oriented products purchase are driven more by digital, while food/grocery ( since they are consumed in social setting)  would be influenced by offline conversations. The study showed the opposite, with brands like Apple and Intel being driven more by offline conversations while brands like Campbell are influenced by social media.

Price Point of Purchase

The price point of the product tend to play an important role.  High priced products like iPhone are influenced by off-line conversations due to stakes being higher and offline conversations permitted deeper exploration of a brand pro’s and con’s than social media. Significantly for every product category, the ratio between offline and online was never more lopsided than 60-40 in either direction. This implied that the both the category of conversations are important when it came to making a purchase decision.

Visible vs Plentiful

The online conversations are more visible since they are aimed to be spread across a wider network of friends and acquaintances. The offline conversations in comparison are more plentiful, with 2/3rd of the people talking about the brand with at least one friend, neighbour or relative. While only 7% are motivated to tweet, post, write or comment about the products online.

Which has the bigger impact

Volume of conversations played an important role when it came to offline conversations compared to sentiments when it came to online conversations.




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