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Social networks are the most influential online media used by shoppers around the world when finding inspiration for their purchases, according to a study from PwC [pdf]. The survey, conducted among 22,000 consumers in 27 territories, also found many turning to retailer websites and price comparison websites.

While various website types do provide inspiration for shoppers, it’s notable that social media is the most frequently used for this purpose. As PwC argues, the findings “suggest that opinions and suggestions on social media sites — posted by friends and strangers alike — have more influence on specific purchase decisions than factors that retailers can control…”

These findings are backed up by research from Engagement Labs, which has found that social media conversations alone drive an estimated 9% of consumer sales in the US.

Previous research has also revealed that social media influences the purchase decisions of about half of US Millennials, and that 85% of Gen Z consumers use social media to learn about new products.

Brand Trust Influences Retailer Choice

Beyond shopping inspiration, PwC also asked respondents to identify the factors other than price that influence them to shop at a particular retailer.

Interestingly, trust in the brand was the second-most cited choice for respondents, ahead even of the retailer having a good location. It was only narrowly behind the retailer usually having the items the shopper wants in stock.

Other influencers of retailer choice included unique items, fast/reliable delivery, a good returns policy and a great loyalty program.

Shoppers Shy Away From Location-Based Offers

Consumers around the world seem generally comfortable with retailers monitoring their shopping patterns and purchases in order to tailor offers specifically for them: 41% agree that they’re comfortable with this, against 30% who disagree.

Likewise, consumers are more likely to agree (42%) than disagree (27%) that they expect a retailer to have up to date information on how they have and like to interact with them across channels.

But the provision of personalized offers based on location may be a step too far. In fact, more respondents disagreed than agreed that they’re happy for a retailer to identify when they are nearby and send them personalized offers via their mobile device.

That finding is supported by new research indicating that few shoppers want to share their current location in exchange for a better shopping experience.

Healthcare in Retail: Comfort Grows

Finally, PwC looked at consumer trust in non-traditional healthcare providers, as seen by the trend for retailers to provide health-related services at the store.

The results demonstrate a sizable amount of trust in such services, ranging from:

  • The provision of over-the-counter medicine (53% trusting in 2017, up from 42% in 2016); to
  • Getting a minor ailment diagnosis (45% trusting);
  • Having a live visit with a physician (43% trusting); and
  • Having an eye examination (43% trusting).

The full results can be found here [pdf].

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