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Research: Internet Often As Influential as Friends and Family When Making Purchasing Decisions

Fleishman-Hillard has released the results of its third annual Digital Influence Index, which takes a closer look at how consumers around the world are using the Web and consuming information. Conducted with Harris Interactive, one of the major findings this year is the influence that the Internet is having on purchasing decisions, in some cases exerting more influence than family and friends.

In the U.S., the Internet is about as important as the Web when deciding what to buy (46 percent said the Internet is more influential versus 47 percent who identified friends and family). In India, 79 percent said the Web held more sway. Only 60 percent said those nearest and dearest were more influential.

The study also pinpointed topics where the influence disparity is particularly felt: travel and leisure, consumer electronics, and personal finance.

Among the other findings: 89 percent of respondents are using search engines to help make purchasing decisions. And 42 percent follow or friend a brand on a social network.

“Today, the collective voice of the Internet is eclipsing the persuasive power of family, friends or colleagues when it comes to influencing purchase decisions,” said F-H president and CEO Dave Senay in a statement. “Marketers need to maximize their online channels to make it easy for consumers to interact with and access information about their brands.”

F-H’s digital team designed and led the research, and Harris Interactive conducted the online surveys. More than 4,600 people in China, the U.S., Germany, Japan, India, France, Canada, and the U.K., were polled in May and June 2011. You can download a free copy of the study here.

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