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The internet has almost double the influence of television in consumer decision-making in the UK, Germany and France, according to the Digital Influence Index (DII), a study of media consumption and online behaviors conducted by Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive.

In all three countries the internet ranks as the most influential medium among internet users, with index scores of 44% in the UK, 45% in Germany, and 46% in France – or roughly twice the influence of the second-strongest channel, television, and about eight times the influence of printed media.

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In the UK, 66% of online consumers say the internet helps them make better decisions (vs. 71% and 50% for Germany and France, respectively):

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However, just 28% (vs. 32% and 28% for Germany and France, respectively) trust the information on the internet provided by companies:

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Consumers in all three countries are more likely to seek others’ opinions, through social media and product-rating sites, for making personal decisions (e.g., healthcare options or major electronics purchases). In contrast, they use company-controlled sources when making transactional decisions on commoditized items, such as utilities or airline tickets.

Other findings on consumers’ research use of the internet:

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  • More than 80% of online consumers in each country use the internet to conduct comparison-shopping for major purchases.
  • More than 75% use the internet to manage bank accounts.
  • More than two-thirds use the internet to keep up with current events or politics.
  • 30% post a comment to an online newsgroup or a website during a typical week.
  • More than 70% are sending and receiving text messages on their mobile phones. However, less than one in five has adopted mobile behaviors that let them take videos, surf the internet, send and receive email or play video.

Consumers are the most engaged in digital communications in France, where two-thirds of web users own a webcam and three-fourths use instant messaging. UK consumers are the most likely to have created an online profile site on a social networking page, and Germans are more likely to have used the internet for research.

Country-specific differences:

  • British online consumers are the most likely to work on an online profile (31%) as part of a social network, compared with only 14% of those in France.
  • British are less likely to engage in most online researching behaviors. Germans are more likely to read information on Wikipedia (83%) or read professional articles (63%), contribute to wikis (11%) and play online games (22%).
  • Germans are much more likely to buy (86%) and sell (61%) items using an online auction, as well as remix materials they find online into a new creation (21%).
  • French are more likely to use the internet to find listings and directions for local shops (82%), as well as read blogs (40%).
  • More than 7 in 10 of French use instant messaging.

“The research shows that the internet stands out as the most important communications medium in the lives of European consumers today”, said Dave Senay, president and chief executive officer of Fleishman-Hillard.

“The rapid rise, changing nature, and increasing influence of the internet, in particular, should cause marketers to think differently about the entire media and marketing landscape,” said George Terhanian, president of Harris Interactive Europe.

Note: All charts courtesy of Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive.

About the research: The DII was designed to measure media-consumption patterns, internet behavior and attitudes, and online social networking involvement, as well as to assess the internet’s influence on specific decisions in the areas of purchasing, politics, healthcare and finance. Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive interviewed 4,921 internet users in the UK, Germany and France between December 2007 and January 2008. The data was quota sampled and then weighted using a bias correction method called Propensity Scoring to ensure a representative sample of internet users across each country.

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