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Consumers are more cautious in their viewing and sharing of content than they used to be, reveals Adobe in a new report, but its survey results also show that brands can influence sharing and purchase activity with their content efforts. Here are 4 insights from the study, which is based on a survey of 1,011 US adults, each of whom owns a digital device.

1. Why Brand Content is Valuable: Information; Differentiation

One of the biggest perceived values of brand content for respondents is that it provides information and tips on using a product or service. That brings to mind separate research from Adobe, in which consumers said that if there was one thing they would like to change about the emails they get from brands, it would be to make them less about promotion and more about providing information.

Clearly, consumers value informative content once they’ve made their purchase. But before they have the product in hand, brand content can also help them choose between various products and services they’re considering. This was in fact the leading value attributed to brand content.

That suggests that brand content can help consumers make a final decision about a purchase – and separate results from the survey support that finding. Indeed, the majority (57%) of respondents said that they had made a purchase in the past year as a result of valuable online content from a brand.

Secondary actions taken in response to valuable brand content include sharing the content with friends and family (29% having done so) and subscribing to an email list (23%).

Just 1 in 5 claimed to have not taken any positive actions due to valuable brand content.

2. So What Is Good Content? It’s Informative and Accurate.

Consumers surveyed for the report were asked to rank 6 characteristics of content in terms of importance.

Respondents placed the most importance on content that is accurate, with 38% ranking this as their most important characteristic and two-thirds (65%) placing it within their top 2. Previous research has likewise found that mistakes and errors are the leading reason why consumers lose trust in digital brands.

Close behind, more than one-quarter (26%) of respondents to Adobe’s survey said that content that is informative is most important to them, with 60% placing that characteristic within their top 2. That’s not too surprising given the results mentioned above.

Consumers also value simplicity in their content, if not quite as much: almost one-third (31%) ranked this as one of their top-2 characteristics, and 6 in 10 put it in the top half of the characteristics identified.

Less important to consumers are beautiful, interactive and entertaining content, per the report’s findings.

Worth noting is that entertaining and beautiful content is more important to Millennials than Boomers. The older generation tends to consider informative, accurate and simple content more important than Millennials do.

While well-designed content may not be quite as critical as accurate and informative content, past research suggests that design does have an impact. Adobe has found in prior research that roughly 7 in 10 adults in the US would choose a product or service over its competition due to good design, and that 62% would judge companies based on the design quality of their marketing materials.

In this latest report, 41% of respondents said that beautiful layout and imagery of content would help generate a positive experience. Still, that fell behind other drivers of a positive content experience, including that it displays well on the device they’re using (75%), is timely and relevant (60%), and can be viewed across multiple devices (53%).

3. What’s Not Good About Content? Sloppiness; Lack of Context

Two frustrations with brand content stand out in the report:

  • Content that is too wordy or poorly written; and
  • Content that isn’t relevant to the consumer or the consumer’s situation.

For those who find content relevance important, the absence of it would lead a sizable proportion (29%) to be less likely to make a purchase or be less likely to recommend the brand to others (25%).

Other annoyances with brand content include poor design, content that isn’t optimized for the device, over-personalization that makes it creepy, old or stale content, and content lacking video or images.

The presence of any of these annoying factors would cause two-thirds of respondents to not purchase from the brand, according to the study.

Other findings in the report indicate that almost half of consumers simply abandon content online if it takes too long to load (47%) or is too long (47%). A large proportion also abandon content if they have trouble interacting with it on their device (45%), the content/images won’t load (44%), or the content doesn’t display well on the current device (34%).

As such, several results from the report indicate that brands must ensure that their content be properly optimized for various devices.

4. Cause-Related, Informative Content Most Likely to be Shared

Relatively few respondents claimed to share brand content with consistency: of the three-quarters who said they ever share content, 83% said they did so only rarely or occasionally.

Consumers give several reasons for sharing content from brands, but the main three are because the:

  • Content was raising awareness for a good cause (35%)
  • Content was informative, not promotional (34%), keeping up a familiar refrain; and the
  • Content gave them an incentive (33%).

While design does matter in some ways, well-designed content by itself doesn’t seem enough to warrant sharing activity.

Interestingly, consumers will share content from sources they don’t necessarily trust, even though 83% said they’re more cautious about sharing content than they were 5 years ago.

For example, while only 15% trust content from a YouTube or social media celebrity, more than twice that share (32%) report having shared content from such a celebrity. And about 3 times more respondents have shared content from a traditional entertainment celebrity (14%) than said they trust such content (5%).

Likewise, while fewer than half trust content from family, friends, or peers (as peers see a decline in trust the world over during the fake news era), almost 6 in 10 have shared content from acquaintances.

Overall, family, friends and peers are still the most trusted source of information, ahead of online news sources and traditional broadcast media networks.

The full study is available here.

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