What’s the Biggest Influencer in the Sales Funnel?

December 3, 2014 Karen Axelton

sales funnel

When consumers are making decisions about what products to buy, there’s more information out there than ever to help them proceed through the sales funnel. But while you might think consumers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data, a new study by Nielsen shows they’re actually paying more attention to every type of information out there. As a result, the way they browse, research and buy has changed.

In the past five years, according to the study The Role of the Consumer in the Decision Making Process, consumers have begun paying more attention to social media, user reviews, online ads, expert reviews, word-of-mouth, brand websites, TV ads and even radio advertising. The study drilled down to assess how consumers use three types of content when making purchasing decisions–and how businesses can shape their journey through the sales funnel.

  1. Expert content: reviews and articles from third-party websites and blogs
  2. User reviews from major online retailers or forums
  3. Branded content on each company’s official website

All three types of content helped influence consumers’ familiarity with the product, affinity for the product and intent to buy the product. However, expert content was far and away the most effective, and was the only type of content that was strongly influential at all three stages of the sales funnel. The higher the price point, the more effective it was at getting customers to buy; expert content was especially effective for products priced at over $1,000.

Why is expert content so effective? Two reasons:

  1. It’s impartial. Half of respondents said they don’t trust information from brand websites to be unbiased, and 61 percent say they don’t trust product reviews because the company might have paid for them. Expert content, in contrast, is perceived as impartial and more trustworthy.
  2. It’s informative. Consumers feel that expert content provides more information than either user reviews or branded content.

What do these results mean for you? While you shouldn’t ignore the power of online customer reviews of your business website, there’s still great value in getting impartial experts to write about your products. Reviews or articles about your product in print or online publications serve as implied endorsements that have a strong influence. Keep promoting your products through press releases; connections with influential bloggers, editors or reporters; and review samples.

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Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.

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