shopper research: social influencers and purchase decisions

by: PLAY

Statistically speaking, you're much more likely to trust a friend's recommendation over an ad. But what about a recommendation from an influencer? Given their unique pull, they're someone you should definitely consider part of your inner circle.

Consumers are 71 per cent more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals and according to the PwC Total Retail Survey, 45 per cent of global respondents said that reading reviews, comments, and feedback influences their shopping behaviour 

The reality is that social influencers are affecting your shoppers' purchase decisions on a daily basis. So how can your brand leverage influencer marketing to boost sales, business growth and customer engagement?


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But isn't everyone an influencer these days?

It depends who you ask. Kissmetrics classifies an influencer as “... the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers."

Or, according to Shelly Horton, an influencer is “... someone who has bought 50,000 followers on Instagram and poses in a bikini with a green smoothie.”

In our view, an influencer is someone who is so trusted by their audience that they can affect purchase decisions.

User-generated content (rather than brands tooting their own horn) ticks the psychological boxes of a purchase decision. It’s trusted, provides social proof and establishes an emotional connection with a product or brand.

Just look at Go Pro's success: the majority of their content is generated by their users enjoying their product and in turn, influencing other users to share their own “social stoke”, generating even more content for Go Pro to share. The emotional pull of the brand is clearly articulated without having to constantly feature their product front and centre.

Whether you’re a fan of influencer marketing or not, it’s clear to see that outbound marketing is going out of fashion.

Leveraging recommendations and storytelling is an opportunity to bring potential customers in to your brand , helping them feel informed enough to make a purchase decision and confident enough to do so.

social media influencer creating content

Who's influencing who?

Travel bloggers, chefs, nutritionists, PTs, celebrities and Insta-celebs are all influencing shoppers' purchase decisions. Bridget Lorimer, talent manager at chefsINK, says each type of influencer brings different reach to different audiences: 


A celebrity brings you mass reach, they have generally come through traditional media and they have cut through in a very noisy market… An influencer is more targeted and some of them have huge followings… The experts are more defined, they have the credibility, they’ve worked and studied in an industry so they have earned their reputation."

Foodies seem to be leading the pack when it comes to influencing their followers. Deloitte found that 47 percent of millennials say their purchase decisions are influenced by social media (vs. 19 percent across all other age groups). With Australians influenced more and more by social media, it's no wonder Generation Y are at the forefront of foodie trends.

In saying so, Baby Boomers shouldn't be ignored. According to the Social Media Marketing Institute, this generation “...take action based on what they see on social media, and most of the time it’s focused on finding more information. More than half of them will visit a company website or continue the search on a search engine after seeing something on a social networking site.”

Baby Boomer influencer

Why are influencers so effective?

To answer that, we first need to look at the psychology behind purchase decisions.


1. Crowd mentality.

If shoppers can see that thousands of their peers are into something from social media reviews or find a recommendation by a popular social media personality, they’re likely to follow suit.

Brands can demonstrate how their product has benefited thousands of other people, and shoppers end up feeling like they need to purchase it, in order to be part of the latest trend.


2. Trust.

Credibility and trust are formed when brands tell personal stories through the mouth-piece of a trusted blogger or Instagram star.

According to Business2Community, 44 percent of social media savvy women say at least one buying decision has been influenced by a trusted blogger.

If the product is endorsed by someone your shopper looks up to, respects or knows is popular, the decision feels less risky and is much easier to make.


3. Emotions.

As highlighted in our 'Mind Hack Your Shopper' report, purchase decisions are driven by emotion.

People buy things they’ve seen a celebrity wear or a health blogger rave about, on impulse, all the time. In fact, 41 per cent of people who purchase a product say they just happened upon it and hadn't thought about buying it.

Shoppers may know they don’t rationally need another pair of gym leggings or some fancy protein drink but if a Gym Shark model says those products will make you look like them, then you feel driven to buy them.

Do you need another eyeshadow palette which contains almost the same colours you already own? No, but Rihanna designed it and it makes her eyes look killer - so hell yeah.

woman shopping making purchase decisions

How are influencers affecting brands?

Today’s consumer journeys are completely different to the classic text books once sold to us.

Incorporating social influencers into your marketing strategy provides opportunity to connect with shoppers at new touch points in the consumer journey.

Thanks to social media, branding cycles today are much shorter. Consumers now discover and engage with brands very quickly and easily.

As you would imagine, millennials, as the 'digital natives', have adapted quickly to this buying behaviour. According to Paul Donagher, managing director of the Consumer & Retail group at Market Strategies:


Millennials are more engaged, more vocal and more visual. They’re not merely passive readers—they post, pin, view and blog. And, they’re willing to experiment and go onto the next innovation in social media." 

However, the down side of this shortened cycle for brands is that they can also be forgotten and put into the fad’ bucket much more quickly.

In an era where people are watching less TV, ads are often distrusted by consumers and ad blockers get in the way of showcasing your brand online, influencer marketing can increase brand awareness and build trust for your brand.

Social media influencer shopping online

Incorporating influencers into your strategy.

Our three top tips for using influencers are:

  1. Partner with influencers and foster in-house innovation in a co-branding’ effort. This approach can help large companies create a personal feel and raise awareness via social channels.

  2. Try opting for micro influencers’ with smaller social media followings to increase authenticity and make your brand feel more relatable (they’re also generally more affordable to recruit as they’re building their following). 

  3. Choose influencers who have a natural fit’ with your brand and a targeted audience. It’s not just about awareness generated by someone with thousands of followers, your brand needs to align with and be relevant to their audience - otherwise you are unlikely to generate leads and customers.


A word of warning.

Of course, there are moral discussions around the use of influencers, and there’s also less control for brands around the content which is produced about their products.

Using influencers is making an investment in branding, but it can be hard to measure how this translates to sales. The influencer market is also becoming increasingly competitive and saturated.

However, if brands focus on quality campaigns and collaborating with influencers your audience trusts, all signs point to success.


Ready to influence?

If you're looking to build your brand's audience, we're here to help. Get in touch on: 02 8097 0200 or

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about the author


A boutique insights agency who love to help you decipher complex customer behaviours. Big fans of snappy reports and hot chips. We call Sydney and Melbourne home but LOVE to travel (although lately, our most exciting trip has been from the study to the fridge).

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