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New informed consumer

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Indians are avid consumers of information and welcome the flow of data on new products/brands, contrary to the popular notion that they are struggling to cope with the information deluge, finds a study

Kinjal MedhKinjal Medh
Chief Operating Officer, Cogito Consulting

Over the last decade or so, there has been a deluge of information that the consumer has been inundated with. Is this information avalanche confusing or delighting the consumer? Is it helping them take decisions, or is it leading to information overload and paralysis? Very little research has been done to understand what the consumer does with the information, how she processes it and how she values it or how she rates each channel that delivers the information.

This has raised several unanswered questions:

* Is information overload for real or a myth?

* Which sources consumers trust for information?

* How do consumers rate the various communications channels in helping them make a product decision?

* What is the role of social media in decision-making?

* How important are ‘experiential’ channels in consumer decision-making today?

* What is the role of personal/friend recommendations, and how does it enter the marketing mix?

In 2009, conducted a study titled ‘New Realities’ across the US, China and Germany to answer some of these questions.

For the New Realities 2012 study, IPG collaborated with Draftfcb Ulka’s for the India leg of the study and recently released the findings. The yet-to-be-published study reveals information processing, involvement and source preferences of Indian consumers. Some of the highlights of the study are as follows: (Click for graphs)

Does information confuse or enable? 
When it comes to information and the consumer, words and phrases like ‘information explosion’, ‘information overload’ and ‘over-informed society’ have become pretty regular in the media. The New Realities 2012 study reveals an interesting finding.

Contrary to the fears expressed earlier, the consumer feels empowered as information not just makes her feel smarter, but also more in command. In fact, this is more true of consumers in India than in other countries.

Surprisingly, it is not just the younger age groups that feel that way. This feeling is prevalent more in the older age groups — the 40-plus group welcomes information and believes it is a friend that gives them more confidence to make the right choices and puts them in control!

Interestingly, there is very little difference between genders as men and women depict near identical mindset.

Is the Indian consumer more sceptical? 
Not all information is useful, not all information sources can be trusted and not all information can be credible. The Indian consumer seems to echo this in a more significant manner than consumers in other countries. In India, twice as many consumers seem to question the credibility of information as in the US. Does that make the Indian consumer smarter? (Figure 1)

Print and TV still important sources Universally, word-of-mouth emerges as the most important medium. Opinion, whether sought or not, from friends and relatives scores significantly higher than any other medium. Despite being an on-line study, which is naturally biased towards the digital media, the New Realities 2012 study, seems to indicate that the significant gains made by digital media has not dented the value of traditional media in a major way.

Infact, in countries like Brazil and India, print and TV are still valued more than social media or internet search or reviews.

In China, the digital media scores much better than TV or print, perhaps a reflection of the maturity/ credibility of TV and print media in that country. (Figure 2)

Information is valuable even after the purchase 
An overwhelming majority of the respondents eagerly access information on brands and products, even after their purchase. Consumers justify or re-assure themselves on having made a correct purchase decision by seeking out more information from various sources. This just reaffirms the studies from the Brown Institute for Brain Science (Journal of Neuroscience 2011), which reveals that affirmation of choice creates a feel-good expression in our brain’s reward system.

Information has social currency 
In a country where everyone has an opinion and an argument for everything, knowledge about brands and products is social currency. The Indian consumer is well ahead of her international counterparts when it comes to using knowledge as a social currency.

The sense of self esteem and pride of knowledge is evident with the scores for India being significantly higher than other countries.

It is this social currency that also fuels the word of mouth and creates a whole new cycle of information transmission and translation as well! (Figure 3)

In an environment where information seems to be overflowing, the consumer seems to have devised her own ways to prioritise information, value it and use it. Whether it is pre-purchase, post-purchase, whether it is for self or others, the Indian consumer is happy to swim in the sea of information around her and soak in the benefits.

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