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08/26/2022

Exclusive: Online shoppers trust experts

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Online shoppers are most influenced by experts, according to new data.

New survey results exclusively previewed by Chain Store Age reveal limits on the effectiveness of online influencers.

According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults commissioned by online expert review platform The Desire Company, initially released to Chain Store Age, nearly all (90%) respondents are overwhelmed to some extent by volume of product information when shopping online. However, this does not necessarily translate to reliance on influencers.

In fact, a vast majority of respondents (87%) said it is likely that influencers don’t even use the products they advertise and only 11% believe that a social media influencer with millions of followers is a trustworthy source of information.

More than four in five (82%) respondents who have purchased something based on an influencer’s pitch say they have had some sort of negative experience with the product, with the most common being that the product didn’t match the influencer’s claims (41%).

But when making purchase decisions,more than half (53%) of respondents rely most on recommendations from product experts. About the same percentage (51%) agree that an expert product demonstration is the only review they need to be confident in their purchase decisions.

Millennial respondents were the most likely to say expert product demonstrations are all they need (63%), followed by Gen Z (55%), Gen X (49%) and boomer (41%) respondents.

“Social media influencers have evolved into becoming the billboards of the Internet,” said Eric Sheinkop, co-founder and CEO of The Desire Company. “Great at spreading mass awareness but lacking in their ability to properly educate consumers about products. Consumers are weary of sorting through massive amounts of online misinformation when shopping online. Clearly trust takes time to earn, certainly longer than the length of a TikTok.”   

The study of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted by independent research firm, Wakefield Research, commissioned by The Desire Company 

Study: Influencers, friends, reviews have e-commerce impact

Findings on the impact of online influencers are mixed across different surveys. For example, a recent consumer study by social media management solutions provider Sprout Social found that virtually all (98%) respondents said they plan to make at least one purchase through social shopping or influencer commerce in 2022, with more than two-thirds (68%) making at least one purchase directly from social media in 2021. 

Among 18-to-24-year-old Gen Z respondents, the most popularly anticipated social platforms for making purchases are Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat – all visually-focused platforms. For 25-to-40-year-old millennials, Reddit is most popular; with Pinterest leading among 41-to-56-year-old Gen Xers and Facebook the most popular social commerce of choice among baby boomer respondents age 57-75.

However, the Sprout Social study did also find that online shoppers look beyond influencers in making purchase decisions. Looking at the most impactful reasons consumers make purchases on social media, the study found the top three reasons are:

  1. Recommendation of a friend.
  2. Comments or product reviews, tied with familiarity with the brand.
  3. Recommendation of a significant other.