A new study from Salmat suggests that Australian consumers are opting for recommendations from search engines, over their own friends and family.
The findings come as part of the third annual Salmat Marketing Report (SMR), which compares the behaviours of Australian marketers and consumers to give in-depth analysis and advice on marketing strategies.
The research found that search engines topped the list of 23 channels that consumers use to make purchase decisions (49 per cent), placing it above recommendations from friends and family (46 per cent).
It shows a dramatic increase in the reliance for technology, as opposed to last year, when 72 per cent of respondents opted for advice from friends and family before making a purchase.
Despite the growing influence of search engines, only a quarter of marketers said that they invest in search engine optimisation (28 per cent) and search engine marketing (25 per cent) to reach their audience.
Instead, the money was being invested in social media, as over half (54 per cent) of marketers saying that they invested in the channel in the last year.
Only 25 per cent of consumers said that they use social media as an information source for making purchase decisions.
Salmat head of marketing and corporate communications Shane McClelland said: “This mismatch between marketer and consumer behaviour is surprising and is, of course, leading to challenges in reaching new customers.
“Consumers’ habits, behaviours and expectations are rapidly changing, so as marketers we need to keep an eye on the data we have and adapt as needed.
“We need to do this regularly and quickly to prevent losing customers to competitors”.
Price remains a major driving factor for Australian consumers, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of their purchase decisions.
Specifically, value for money is the most important factor, as 85 per cent expressed it as their top concern when buying products.
In line with this, marketers are regularly discounting products — 26 per cent of them said that they discount products weekly, and 28 per cent discount monthly.
McClelland observed: “Everyone discounts in Australia and whilst price is still a huge deciding factor for consumers, it isn’t the only way brands can stand out.
“Looking outside of that, consumers are more receptive to brands that deliver value for money — this is still price driven but demonstrating value for money is something marketing can really own.
“Instead of discounting heavily or focusing on undercutting the competition on price, we should instead demonstrate why our products deliver the best value for money.
“Messaging can focus on this in addition to offering promotions.
“This, of course, needs to be delivered to the consumer via the channel they use to search and browse for brands.”
Though technology continues to remain influential in the customer’s buying journey, consumers opt to do their own research, using their own mobile devices to go online and compare prices, find the best deal or access specific retailer apps (57 per cent), or research product information (56 per cent), rather than use the technologies that retailers offer in-store (31 per cent).
McClelland concluded: “We already know consumers like to shop around — especially when it comes to finding the best deal.
“But what we’ve found is that they do that research on their own devices — mainly on their mobile whilst they are still in store.
“This makes a lot of the in-store technology redundant and rarely used by consumers.
“Instead, marketers should look at investing in creating in-store environments to harness consumer behaviour — charging points, relaxation areas, experiences to keep consumers in store for longer, and ultimately then converting them to a sale”.