Even unintentional discovery of brand information online can push consumers down the sales funnel, according to a study released by WE Communications and YouGov.
Matthew Lackie, APAC executive vice president of WE Communications, told Campaign Asia-Pacific a lot of brands are investing a lot in search since consumers are using websites and branded platforms as a way to get information.
Intentional searches are shown to have the greatest impact on brand purchase, in either a positive or negative sense. Because intentional searches are often product-specific and indicate the consumer is already on the journey to purchase, they can change minds.
In particular, even though most intentional searchers in China use Baidu, people do not value information from Baidu search results as much as they do information on product manufacturers' websites.
Conversely, unintentional discoveries play a significant role in influencing brand perceptions positively over time, as consumers are more open to branded content when discovered through unintentional means.
Unintentional searches will be effective as long as a sufficient number of positive signals are pushed out into the right media placements, the study stated, so consumers will have greater propensity to lean towards a brand and then begin an intentional search process.
"Through the casual encounter where you might not be expecting to engage consumers is what can help push them further down the sales funnel, as long as what they’re engaging with has positive messages that reinforce what consumers already think about a brand," Lackie said.
This casual encounter needs to be part of a deliberate content strategy, he advised. "Brands have been very focused on designing [harder] content that goes directly to their end audience, which absolutely makes sense. But it is that ‘softer’ content that many brands don’t pay as much attention to that is an important part of helping a brand build a relationship with a consumer."
In fact, Chinese consumers want to have a tangible connection with the brand they engage with, and to be able to engage and ask questions, he pointed out.
WeChat is a place where the unintentional, casual encounter with a Chinese consumer comes up the most. So brands should amplify their content on this platform by using influencers to share information that consumers can come across unintentionally.
What kind of content works? Something amusing or entertaining never fails in China.
WE Communications conducted this 'Stories in Motion' online study to examine consumer behaviour in relationship to branded content. 1,000 respondents from China were surveyed during the month of October 2016 by research firm YouGov.