Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Consumers Trust (Some) Online Content

We know that traditional media is declining and that consumer attention and marketer budgets are aggressively moving online. One of the comments to a post last week reminded me of the importance of the question, “What content can we trust online?” That motivated me to pull out the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey data from this summer and take a look at it. This twice-yearly study surveys 25,000 consumers across the globe.According to the article in AdWeek, “When it comes to trust, personal recommendations and consumer opinions posted online are most valued by consumers worldwide.” Word of mouth from people you know is the most trusted. Consumer reviews posted online are second, although there’s quite a gap. It’s interesting that brand websites are equally trusted. It’s also interesting that traditional media ads rate considerably higher than do online ads.

Additional data from the study, presented in the Marketing Analytics blog, gives another perspective. The study found trust in advertising increasing across the board. According to this report, “consumers today are more trusting of every marketing channel tracked compared to two years ago, save newspaper advertising, trust in which declined a marginal 3%.

The study disclosed some good news for online in particularly banner ads. The percentage of global consumers trusting banner ads grew 27% between 2007 and 2009 and the percentage trusting ads in search engine results grew 21% from 2007 to 2009.” According to eMarketer (August 3, 2009) there are differences between various areas of the world. North America sits pretty much on the average. Even at that, the overall level of trust in online advertising could still be higher.

Why is trust growing? Better behavior on the part of marketers? More need felt by consumers? The respondents feel that advertising helps them make more informed decisions. Some even find it entertaining! I wonder how much the state of the economy has to do with it. Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “Advertising contributes to growth of the economy.”

That shouldn’t let marketers off the hook; it seems abundantly clear that consumers are looking for information—from their friends, from online reviews, and from advertising. Doesn’t that give a strong message as to what we marketers should be doing?

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