Yelp Is Great, but We Still Trust Our Family More

An Ad Age/Ipsos Observer Survey Finds Social-Media Opportunities for Marketers

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Consumers in an exclusive Ad Age/Ipsos Observer survey said they seek out the advice of family members before making major purchasing decisions. Those opinions help guide final purchasing decisions. They consulted family more than other sources including friends, professional reviews or online reviews from sites such as Yelp.com before buying nearly every category of products including clothing, groceries, telecommunications services and travel. For electronics, they consulted a larger variety of sources but were most likely to check out professional product reviews.

This, of course, presents an opportunity for marketers to leverage social media. Eddie Combs, chief marketing officer for Sears Holding Corp.'s home-electronics division, understands that tech products require as much research as bigger-ticket purchases like automobiles. "The products render themselves obsolete before they get old or break. You either have to invest a lot of brain power to find what to buy or you have to be extremely well-networked to find out what to buy."

Social media help shoppers by giving them a worldwide network of friends and experts alike, allowing the marketer a voice alongside more personal connections. It helps the marketers, too, allowing them a new role in the decision chain. "If we help them through the research process, there's a good chance they'll think of us when they make a purchase," Mr. Combs said. Century-old Sears has instant recognition, even with new younger audiences and new communications channels. "If you can reach them at that early life stage, you can create a loyalty relationship with the consumer," he said

Getting in the conversation is important for marketers because not only do consumers ask for their family's opinions, they listen to them. Nearly 90% said that family recommendations had an impact on purchases, edging out friends, and reviews, which also play a role in the process.

Advertising had a strong impact, they said, but less so than the other sources. Only 72% said that ads influenced their decisions in the marketplace.

For more from the survey see "Matters Not if You're Naughty or Nice, Gifts Will Still Be Few" and follow @adagestat on Twitter.

The online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers was conducted in mid-November by Ipsos Observer.