The Content that Compels People to Buy

Executive Summary

New research from Blue Nile Research examines the content and channels that compel shoppers to buy. The ease of access to information in the Internet economy means buyers are fully prepared to leverage all channels available to them and more than 70% (76% B2B) use three channels or more when researching a purchase. 45% of buyers (46% B2B) want data and stats to help them make a buying decision, more than any other content type.

When it comes to the channels buyers utilize to make a buying decision, they tack to those that lend themselves to a thorough research process, with between 79% and 82% using search, the brand’s website and customer reviews. Far less use ‘discovery’ channels to research a buying decision with only between 14-25% using social, mobile and blog posts.

To connect with how consumers now buy online, Marketers must be where buyers are researching and conversing about their product online and craft a content strategy that maps to consumers state of mind based on their position in the buying journey.

The Internet Has Empowered the Buyer

The Internet has deeply and thoroughly impacted the way consumers research and buy. E- commerce is rapidly growing and has been a great equalizer in allowing consumers to research a brand or product before each purchasing decision. According to Forrester Research, consumers will be spending $414 billion online by 2018, a 41% increase from 2013.

The self-serve nature of the Internet has created a huge opportunity for brands to invest in content and cross-channel distribution of their content. Because there have been massive increases in investment in digital content and its distribution, plenty of research has been published that measures the digital levers Marketers pull when it comes to the digital content and distribution channels they invest in.

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Far less has been done that measures what actually works. What content really compels people to buy? What channels do consumers use to make a buying decision? How does that differ when making a B2C purchase vs. B2B?

The result is a weird gap with plenty of research about what Marketers do and little about what actually works. Sure, Marketers have their own analytics to tell them what does and does not work on their own sites, but it is colored by their own starting assumptions and biases, giving them a skewed view of what globally resonates with buyers.

What is needed, therefore, is a step back from our own analytics and research about what Marketers are doing to assess what actually resonates with buyers. This global view will give Marketers a chance to assess how, at this point in the evolution of the Internet economy, consumers interact with digital content and channels when researching and making an online purchase. Comparison between what consumers say works and Marketers’ assumptions about what works also becomes possible.

Methodology

Blue Nile Research designed a research study to assess consumers’ online research and buying behaviors. 528 US respondents were collected via an online survey.

The study sought to understand consumers’ online research and buying behaviors from a number of different angles, so questions were asked to assess:

  • The kinds of content buyers use to make a buying decision

  • The number of channels used during the buying and research process

  • The types of channels used during the buying and research process

  • The content types that resonate with B2C vs. B2B buyers

Because the buying mindset of consumer buyers (B2C) could differ from that of a business buyer, (B2B) we designed the study to include B2B buying questions, making comparison between the buying habits of the two possible.

Both B2B and B2C Buyers Want Cold, Hard Facts

When asked to imagine they are in the market for a specific item (B2C: sneakers, B2B: Data Analytics software) and then shown different headline types and asked which they were most likely to click on, several interesting insights emerge:

    • Buyers choose the data/statistics headline most, 45% of the time in the B2C scenario and 46% in B2B. In describing why he preferred data and statistics in the buying process, one respondent said:“I like to be able to compare specifications on top of price to get the specs I want for the price I am willing to pay”

    • B2C buyers prefer blog posts at a far greater rate than B2B buyers. One respondent commented: “Data is usually concatenated into personal experiences within blog posts, and I will use the recommendations as a starting point before looking up prices and specifications.”

    • B2B buyers actually preferred video at a greater rate than B2C. One respondent observed: “It’s to the point, and it is easier to watch video”.

      We attribute this skew to the tech startup trend of ‘explainer videos’ that have been effective at explaining a complex product. The data suggests B2B sellers should seriously consider video as a medium to explain their value proposition since nearly 20% of B2B buyers view it as compelling during the buying process.

    •  With barely 10% of respondents choosing infographics, it is clearly a top of the funnel tool. Marketers like them because they have the potential to be viral but they should not be confused as a compeller during the buying process.

    • Perhaps most significantly, close analysis of headline click preferences show, that although 45-46% of buyers choose data and stats as the most compelling content type, it is not an overwhelming majority that prefer one content type (e.g 80% that say they prefer data and stats).

      In reality, we see a fairly broad distribution of content types that resonate across the distinct types. This suggests a ‘different strokes for different folks’ strategy that encompasses breadth of content types to ensure broad appeal.

B2C: Imagine you are in the market for a new air conditioning unit. Upon searching Google for “Air Conditioning Unit,” the following results appear. Which headline would you be most likely to click on?

B2B: Imagine you are the buyer for your company for new data analytics software. The following headlines appear when you search Google for “Data Analytics Software.” Which are you most likely to click on?

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B2B and B2C Buyers are Thorough in Their Research

Looking next at the scope of research buyers typically undergo when researching a purchase, we can see fully 3⁄4’s (76%) of B2B buyers use three channels or more and nearly the same percentage (72%) of B2C buyers do so. This may be counterintuitive for some Marketers who expected research effort by B2B buyers to vastly outpace that of B2C.

While we can expect effort by B2C buyers to vary somewhat based on the purchase—the same degree of effort will not be expended for a $3 network cable as will for a $1200 refrigerator— we think the data tells of the impact the internet as the great buying equalizer has had on the mindset of the buyer—both B2C and otherwise.

The ease of access to information via the internet means consumers have become increasingly conditioned to thoroughly research a purchase before buying—and the data suggests they are telling Marketers they plan to take full advantage of this opportunity. Although Marketers can’t be everywhere, in every channel, all the time, increasingly, the imperative is to be where your audience is having conversations.

How many channels do you use to interact with a brand before making a purchasing decision?

Note: The graph below depicts the top 3 channels that consumers utilize before making a purchase decision.

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Buyers Use ‘True’ Research Channels Such as Search & Website over Social and Mobile

Looking at the customer journey in a slightly different way, when we asked respondents to elaborate on the channels they turn to when researching a purchase, 8 out of 10 say they leverage online search and browse the brands website. Although far less, between 14-25%, use channels such as mobile and social, Marketers should not base their investment in these channels solely on this data since it describes buyer behavior in the interest, consideration, conversion stages of the buying journey and does not accurately reflect top of the funnel behavior.

What channels do you use to interact with a brand before making a purchase?

Note: The graph below depicts the top 3 channels that consumers utilize before making a purchase decision.

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Nevertheless, it does suggest that when buyers are in ‘true’ research mode (vs. discovery mode) they turn to the channels that enable a ‘true’ and iterative research experience: search, browsing a website, reading customer reviews. This implies Marketers must be prepared in these mediums with materials that appeal to the “Rationalist” within the buyer that will enable her to rationalize the decision. This means cold hard facts, reviews—materials that will enable the purchaser to make an educated purchase decision should be emphasized in these mediums.

This is compared to discovery channels such as social and mobile that must appeal to the internal ‘Emoter’. In these channels, the ‘Emoter’ discovers the answer to a pain or the possibility of pleasure. Nike Air Jordans will help me jump higher. A Marketing automation platform will ease my marketing woes. These discoveries are increasingly made on channels such as Mobile and Social and are then more thoroughly researched and rationalized on search and websites.

Increasingly, as the web continues to evolve, Marketers must evolve with it. That means deepening our understanding of the mindset our audience is in in each stage of the buyers journey and mapping the content we publish to that mindset.

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What Does It All Mean?

What does the research tell us about how Marketers must approach the Internet empowered buyer?

There are several key takeaways:

  • Be Where Your Buyers are Having Conversations:
    Buyers thoroughly research a purchase online before buying: 72% of B2C buyers and 76% of B2B buyers interact with 3 or more channels before deciding on a purchase. Although we can’t be everywhere all the time, Marketers must be strategic about ensuring they are where their audience is researching, discussing and contemplating their brand.

  • Speak to the Emoter and Rationalizer

Our research suggests emotion compels buyers to act and this emotional connection typically occurs in discovery channels such as Mobile and Social. Once the ‘Emoter’ has been stimulated, the ‘Rationalizer’ looks to justify the purchase in ‘true research’ channels such as search, website, customer reviews/case studies and videos.

Marketers must ensure they have appropriate content –with appropriate tonality, messaging and themes—that appeals to the buyer mindset in each stage of their buying journey.

  •  Educate, Not Compel:

    It’s not enough to simply be in a channel, we must also understand the state of mind our audience is in in each channel.

Many Marketers instinct is to use content and distribution channels to compel to buy. Although this approach may work for some small subset of your audience, buyers have become increasingly tuned in to when this happening and they don’t like it.

The data that describes buyers as overwhelmingly wanting data and stats to make a purchase decision is less about buyers wanting to read dense academic reports and review charts when they buy a pair of sneakers than it is about them wanting the Marketer to give them the information they need to make an educated purchase decision. Create content and craft a distribution network that educates and enable your buyer to make an educated purchase decision. This approach will create a connection with buyers that they will remember when it comes time to buy and will go a long way to creating long terms bonds.

LIKE THIS STUDY? TO COMMISSION YOUR OWN ATTENTION GETTING, LEAD
GENERATING RESEARCH STUDY OR MARKET RESEARCH STUDY FOR YOUR COMPANY
FROM A FORMER FORRESTER RESEARCH ANALYST CONTACT NATHAN SAFRAN TO
SET UP A CONVERSATION AT: nathan@bluenileresearch.com

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