The Original Influencers: Influencers at the point-of-purchase

The Original Influencers: Influencers at the point-of-purchase

Scott Snow MetrixLab

By Scott Snow,
SVP, Global Knowledge, Innovation Consultant at MetrixLab

Social media influencer marketing may be all you hear about these days, but influencing a consumer’s purchase didn’t start online. In fact, there are armies of point-of-purchase influencers out there who are being sought out by and making recommendations to consumers every day. And they’ve been doing so since the first brick was placed in mortar to build that store where goods are sold.

Who are offline influencers and where do you find them?

Influencers can be found behind the bars of neighborhood pubs, at the garage where you get your oil changed or wherever you buy pet food. The common tie among influencers in these categories and others is that they are the perceived expert at the point of purchase. They are there to offer product or brand details to a consumer so the consumer can make a more informed choice, make a direct product or brand recommendation or validate a consumer’s product or brand purchasing decision.

Influencers strive to be as educated about the brands they recommend as possible so they can make the best recommendation possible. For many, the right recommendation results in repurchase and referral. A US bartender makes over 1,100 tequila brand recommendations to consumers per year, and nearly two in three of those recommendations convert into a sale. Seven in ten consumers purchase the appliance that is recommended by an influencer. Pharmacists spend one hour on average per day speaking to consumers about over-the-counter brands, which often results in making a recommendation.

Across any category, a point-of-purchase influencer meets four main criteria. He/she:

  • Is the perceived expert in his/her field, be that the oil, alcohol and beverage or even pet food
  • Can explain in detail the differences and similarities of each brand or product
  • Uses his/her expertise to recommend one brand over another
  • Helps consumers by alleviating the “fear” of buying

One of the biggest mistakes brands make when building an insights program is neglecting these powerful point-of-purchase influencers – like the nearly 800,000 bartenders interacting with roughly 670 customers a week recommending which brand to drink. Or the 9 in 10 pharmacists making a recommendation for an over-the-counter medication during their shift. Not knowing how your brand performs with respect to image and level of recommendation (a measure of affinity) is a missed opportunity for brands. You can research the consumer as much as you want, but influencers at the point of purchase are swaying consumers’ purchase decisions every day.

Get to know the 5 degrees of point-of-purchase influence

When it comes to point-of-purchase influence, not all influencer recommendations are created equal. Across all categories, there are 5 different degrees of recommendation impact based on the relative importance consumers place upon the product being purchased. A recommendation from a bartender on which brand of vodka to order in a cocktail is not quite as impactful as a recommendation from a pharmacist on which brand of pain relief to purchase for a sick child at home.

Here are the 5 types of recommendations ranked from least to most impactful:

  1. When consumers are faced with too much choice. If there are too many options at nearly the same price point, consumers seek out an expert opinion. In this case the purchase risk is low because the product is more of a commodity.
  2. When the product/category is relatively expensive. Consumers don’t want to make a bad investment and seek guidance to avoid doing so.
  3. When the product/category is technical or complex. Consumers may be concerned their needs won’t be met if they themselves don’t fully understand all the specs and details and look for the “expert” to help them get it right.
  4. When social image is at stake. When consumers are worried about not getting the “in” or “popular” brand, they gain affirmation from an expert (e.g., “I don’t want to buy the ‘wrong’ thing, look stupid”).
  5. When personal health is at risk. No recommendation carries more weight than when the health and well-being of a consumer or those they love is at stake. Consumers want to know which brand has the greatest efficacy, as a matter of comfort and safety (e.g., “I want the right medication for my child.”).

Chart showing relative impact of influencer recommendation on purchase

The relationship between influencers and consumers

At the end of the day, consumers seek out recommendations to minimize the risk of buying the wrong thing. In addition to the cost, complexity and efficacy concerns people have around a purchase, they are inundated with brand advertising through TV, Radio, Print and even more so digitally via search results, websites, banner ads and more.  Messaging around product features, benefits and imagery create information overload that makes it more confusing and difficult for consumers to feel they have made the right decision. Influencers provide guidance and comfort in helping consumers navigate the advertising noise.

It’s on brands to not only understand the role of these critical ambassadors, but to also make plans to best leverage communications and relationships that help build affinity for their brand. Because, just as important as a recommendation validating a consumer’s pre-determined brand choice can be, these influencers can also switch that choice to a competitive brand. We’ll tackle this and more in Part II of this point-of-purchase influencer marketing series, so stay tuned!

Become the top brand recommended to your consumers with a point-of-purchase influencer study. Learn more here!

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