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Study: Consumers follow brands on Pinterest, TikTok

Marketers misunderstand how consumers find and engage with brands.

Brands looking for followers should create a presence on Pinterest and TikTok, and “influencers” may not be so influential.

According to a new study of marketing professionals and consumers from R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co., when it comes to following their favorite brands, consumers prefer Pinterest (21%), TikTok (20%), and Twitter (19%) over Snapchat (16%) and Reddit (11%).

[Survey: Shopping via TikTok explodes]

When it comes to brand engagement, valuable young consumers show a surprising preference for some of the most established social media platforms. Gen Y leads all other surveyed generations with regard to brand engagement on Facebook (42%), while Gen Z leads with regard to brand engagement on YouTube (45%) and Instagram (50%).

In a trend that repeatedly displayed itself throughout the study, surveyed marketers showed a disconnect with consumers over the effectiveness of Snapchat as a platform for brand discovery. One in five (21%) marketers said that consumers use Snapchat to discover new brands, while only 7% of consumers agreed.

And while 82% of marketers believe influencers (public figures that promote brands, products, or services, often in social media) drive consumer purchases, the reality is that just over one-quarter (26%) of consumers say that influencers make them more likely to purchase new products or services.

For nearly three in 10 consumers (28%), word of mouth is the preferred method for learning about a new brand, product, or service — outpacing social media (23%), cable TV (12%), and online/digital ads (11%). However, only 4% of marketers identified word of mouth as a consumer preference for learning about new brands, products, or services. The study also revealed that word of mouth has a higher research-to-purchase ratio (40%) than social media (30%), online/digital ads (27%), or print ads (16%).

In addition, word of mouth outranked all other forms of brand discovery, with the survey findings showing that the majority (55%) of consumers have discovered a new brand, product, or service in the past year through word of mouth, followed by social media (53%). Four in 10 consumers purchased a product after discovering it via word of mouth, topping all other channels. Yet only 7% of marketers identified word of mouth as a channel that results in consumer purchases.

[Read more: Survey: Social content from consumers beats influencer content]

More than half (51%) of consumers were more excited to receive direct mail in the past year than they were in the year prior. In another surprising example of young consumers preferring an established marketing medium, the highest levels of excitement for direct mail resulted among Gen Y (65%), Gen Z (57%), and Gen X (53%) respondents. Baby boomers are least likely to be excited about receiving direct mail (36%).

Over six in 10 (62%) consumers are eager to return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits. More than one-third (35%) of consumers admit that the changes they made to their shopping habits due to the pandemic will last less than six months.

These findings contrast with marketers’ assumptions, with 43% expecting consumers not to return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits for another 6-12 months. Consumers also show a preference for retailers who effectively use in-store signage and displays, with a majority (58%) saying that in-store signage is influential to their purchase decisions. Eight in 10 consumers prefer to shop in stores with signage that helps them navigate the store and avoid crowds.

With regard to in-app purchases, 41% of consumers have made an in-app purchase on Facebook, followed by 25% on Instagram, and 11% on Pinterest. Baby boomers are the least likely to make in-app purchases, but when they do, they overwhelmingly prefer Facebook. Gen X also prefers to make in-app purchases via Facebook. However, nearly half of all survey respondents (47%) have never made an in-app purchase.

R.R. Donnelly & Sons commissioned twin surveys of 250 U.S. marketing professionals and 1,000 U.S. consumers in the summer of 2021.

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