New Survey Taps into SA’s Digital vs Real Life Habits

South African consumers engage in both ‘talking and tapping’ when sharing brand experiences or seeking recommendations.

The obsession around social media creates the illusion that digital reality rules, putting all real-life communication on the backburner. However, according to a consumer study conducted by global measurement company Nielsen, 98% of South African consumers like ‘talking’ versus 95% who like ‘tapping’ (digital interaction or communication) when it comes to sharing their brand experiences or seeking recomme30ndations.

Nielsen’s Real Life vs. Digital Life Report shows that although consumers are actively engaging online; word of mouth or real-life conversations have a stronger influence on consumers’ minds and, therefore, their purchasing decisions. Interestingly, South Africa has more digital conversations but word of mouth is strong in both, influencing consumers in general and also impacting their purchase decisions with more than half of local respondents (77%) confirming that word of mouth influences them highly (vs 65% social media, which includes all types of interactions that consumers have online, including traditional social media sites and websites).

“Word of mouth has always been and remains one of the greatest enablers for marketeers in the battles for consumers’ hearts and minds, and it is crucial to understand the way you can leverage its opportunities for your brand”, says Sue Temple, Vice-President, Global Consumer Insights, Nielsen. “It is easier for us to trust people we know – friends, spouses, colleagues – than unknown personalities on social media so to unlock this opportunity for business more efforts need to be put into a positive experience, which will encourage your customers to share within their personal network,” she concludes.

The more they use, the less they trust

Global consumers tend to go digital and use social networks more often, nevertheless when it comes to trust, they still rely on more traditional channels. As a result, in South Africa, newspapers command a Trust to usage index of 225, television 116 and Internet/digital media, a much lower index of 77. Globally, Millennials happen to be the most loyal audience for all channels, with newspapers being the most trusted channel (index of 356) for them. On the flipside, Baby Boomers are sceptical towards all channels and the Silent generation has a clear preference to newspapers (index of 241).

Trust to usage index is the ratio of consumers who use the media most often to trusting the media most often

“With social networks rising in popularity over the last decade it is no surprise their use, spread among all generations, is leaking into consumer’s everyday life. Nevertheless, the quality of digital communication hasn’t developed at the same pace, and having been burned too many times, when dealing with fake news, frauds and data breaches consumers respond with less trust to information shared via new media,” confirms Temple.

Globally, the reasons to go digital varies across the regions, but for South Africans on the top of the list it’s when they find it interesting to read something online (46%), seek recommendations (44%), or wish to share the experience (36%). Most South Africans express their personal opinions in real life because they would like to recommend good products (46%), are sharing the experience (45%), and remarking on exclusive deals and offers (44%).

“With that being said, consumers are taking the role of observer when online: they are on the lookout for information about the product, and relevant and interesting content may inspire consumers to take the dialogue offline. It’s crucial to understand the link between the two — digital and real-life — and what triggers having a broader discussion about the brand. Clearly, real-life conversations remain consumers’ comfort zone; a way to share true emotions with their community. When impressed by the experience, they can easily become your brand ambassadors,” adds Temple.

Overall, more consumers talk about brands than post about them on social media with 86% of South African consumers preferring to talk about brands in real life versus the 63% who tap i.e. engage in digital conversations.

“These differences have a direct impact on the efficiency of marketing campaigns. Knowing who the most probable influencers are will help in sharpening brands’ social media campaigns,” concludes Temple.

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