Rural Lifestylers are Changing   the Way They Research      and Buy Products   By: Alicia DeGeest and Sara Steever
Rural Lifestylers are Changing the Way They                     Research and Buy Products  How online communities, brand a...
From this data, Paulsen Marketing was able to report three key findings:   1. The rural lifestyle consumers are adopting s...
How do rural lifestylers make purchase decisions today?Does social media have an important role in their decision-making p...
How do rural lifestylers make purchase decisions today?Without a doubt, rural lifestyle consumers are adopting two-way com...
As marketers, our challenge is to find the right marketing mix and messaging to reach rurallifestylers in an era where the...
Rural Lifestylers are as Tech Savvy as General ConsumersAlthough technology may be assumed as a barrier to the rural lifes...
Annette, Minnesota4 horses, 2 dogs, 75-acre family farmTechnology: Going to get the new BlackBerry.Ken and Pam, South Dako...
Kevin, IowaPartner in a 3,200 gallon-per-year winery, 75 acresTechnology: Waits to purchase new technology until thebugs a...
Debbie, Kansas3,000 acres and 500 head of cattleTechnology: “I always take my iPad; I take notes on itpretty frequently.” ...
Social Media and the Power of OpinionThe accessibility of technology allows online activity to be as prominent for making ...
“ If it is a major purchase, something that  takes a little more thought, I jump on the  Internet and I do my research fir...
The statistics below are from our surveys conducted in January 2011 of the rural lifestyleaudience. This reinforces the va...
Macro and Micro InfluencersWe believe there are two types of influencers that have decision-making impact on potentialcust...
“ Your of connection with you, you trust             kind                   friends, people that have some             the...
“ It gives me a little bit of feeling like, ‘Well, I  haven’t made a bad decision.’ I mean, five  other people who I don’t...
What is the level of trust in influencers found online?         And what is the impact of positive versus negative reviews...
“ You always haveusing judgment.bad ones.100   comes down to                   to filter out the                          ...
“ Negative reviews can really influence me. If it is  a problem that keeps coming up over and over  on the same thing, the...
Rural Lifestylers Rely Heavily on Online SearchHow do rural lifestylers find online reviews? Search.Search is an important...
Social MediaNot only are rural lifestylers seeking feedback from search engines, but they are also findingmicro and macro ...
“ I’m not Mr. Social Media, but it is a place       where you talk to a lot more people on a       regular basis even just...
Point-of-Purchase Decision Activity is ChangingMany rural lifestylers hold off their final purchase decisions until they’r...
“ You canapost, ‘Has anybody                       bought lawn tractor lately?’                                        ”As...
Rural lifestylers are becoming more familiar with bar code readers that pull up detailed information at the point of sale....
“ Definitely, yeah, I would do that.” [when asked  about QR Codes] “I’ve done the bar code  scanner, so that would be inte...
Writing ReviewsAfter a purchase, rural lifestylers remain aggressively engaged, publicly promoting orassailing the product...
“ Yes, absolutely, if something is really                 awful I’ll write a review. I try to be fair.                   ”...
These customer insights may extend past the marketing and bring an overall commitment tocustomer satisfaction throughout a...
Marketing Take AwaysConsumer reviews impact each step of the purchase decision-makingprocess. Rural lifestylers are very a...
What’s Next?This study identifies the important role of macro and micro influencers and their impact uponthe Modern Purcha...
A special thanks from Paulsen to all who participated in this study.        We welcome you to continue referencing this st...
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Rural Lifestylers are Changing the Way They Research and Buy Products

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The power of opinion has great impact on each step of the purchase process for rural lifestylers.

What once was a very straightforward purchasing process with well-defined marketing tactics has been overrun with the dynamics of social media.

This paper invites you to watch video interviews of rural lifestylers revealing their purchasing habits while reading about findings from our study.

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Rural Lifestylers are Changing the Way They Research and Buy Products

  1. 1. Rural Lifestylers are Changing the Way They Research and Buy Products By: Alicia DeGeest and Sara Steever
  2. 2. Rural Lifestylers are Changing the Way They Research and Buy Products How online communities, brand advocates and customer reviews influence purchase decisions. Executive SummaryPaulsen Marketing conducted a three-month study in 2011 to better understand how onlinecommunities, brand advocates and customer reviews influence the purchase decisions ofrural lifestylers.The study involved 13 personal interviews with rural lifestylers in the Midwest, as well as 341completed e-mail surveys of rural lifestylers in a random representative sample of the UnitedStates in C and D counties. For the purpose of this paper, we are defining a rural lifestyler assomeone who is living the country life, but not necessarily trying to make a living at it. 1
  3. 3. From this data, Paulsen Marketing was able to report three key findings: 1. The rural lifestyle consumers are adopting social media practices at the same rate as general consumers. 2. Like general consumers, rural lifestyle consumers rely on two different types of influencers to help them form brand perceptions and make purchase decisions: micro influencers and macro influencers. 3. The sales process has been altered to reflect a continuous feedback loop between current customers and prospective customers.A negative online review from an unknown current customer (micro influencer) or a positiveengagement with a trusted thought leader (macro influencer) is available to rural lifestylers atthe click of a mouse or a tap on their mobile device. In other words, the sales process doesnot necessarily end with a sale — it is just the beginning of the next sale. Additionally, thetimeframe from consideration to purchase can be significantly compressed.As marketers, our challenge is to find the right marketing mix and messaging to reach rurallifestylers in an era where the purchase process includes powerful new influences. Paulsen Marketing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, specializes in rural lifestyle and agricultural marketing. For further details regarding this study, please contact Alicia DeGeest. 605-336-1745 • www.paulsenmarketing.com 2
  4. 4. How do rural lifestylers make purchase decisions today?Does social media have an important role in their decision-making process?How critical are customer reviews?Who do rural lifestylers trust in their online community?To find the answers to these and other questions, Paulsen Marketing surveyed rural lifestylersall across the country. Their responses provided great insight to how this unique audiencesegment continues to embrace new technology, engage in social media and change thetraditional sales process.Locations of January 2011e-mail survey of 341 rurallifestylers in C and D countiesacross the United States. 3
  5. 5. How do rural lifestylers make purchase decisions today?Without a doubt, rural lifestyle consumers are adopting two-way communication practices,particularly social media, at the same rate as general consumers. As a result, they feel moreempowered to reach decisions outside of brand propaganda. This consumer control revolvesaround gaining information and communication from influencers while moving through thepurchase process.Today, influence has a great impact on each step of the purchase process. Rural lifestylersturn to third-party verification of information, often online, before making a purchase decision.This has created a new sales process that does not necessarily conclude with a purchase.Purchase leads to experience. The experience is shared online, which exerts influence uponthe next prospective sale. 4
  6. 6. As marketers, our challenge is to find the right marketing mix and messaging to reach rurallifestylers in an era where the purchase process includes powerful new influences.The Modern Purchase Process Step 1: Awareness Step 2: Consideration Step 3: Evaluation Step 4: Purchase Step 5: Experience Step 6: Influence 5
  7. 7. Rural Lifestylers are as Tech Savvy as General ConsumersAlthough technology may be assumed as a barrier to the rural lifestyle audience,according to studies by Successful Farming and NAFB, their levels of Internet access anduse of Internet-enabled mobile phones are virtually that of the population as a whole.Nielsen predicts 49 percent consumer penetration for smartphones by the end of 2011.A recent study conducted by Successful Farming shows producer adoption rate might beas high as 43 percent already.As agrimarketers, we often forget that producers and rural lifestylers are almost identical inbehavior to general consumers. Here are examples from those interviewed for this paper. Leslie, Colorado 11 Quarter horses, 1 award-winning reining horse, 2 dogs Technology: Admits to being an early adopter. Has to have the latest and greatest. Kevin and Sonja, South Dakota 30 Paint horses, 4 dogs Technology: Use Google search to find horse and machinery information. 6
  8. 8. Annette, Minnesota4 horses, 2 dogs, 75-acre family farmTechnology: Going to get the new BlackBerry.Ken and Pam, South Dakota3 horses, 1 dog, 5 acresTechnology: Use Facebook and Google to research products.Leon and Kim, Iowa50 Arabian horses, 14 clients, 50 acresBreed, raise, sell, board, lessons, trainLeon is an international Level-1 Judge with judging cardsin various disciplines. His daughter-in-law, Kim, co-chairsinternational horse shows.Technology: Two iTouches, use iPad to show horses theyraise while at shows.Kevin and Jan, South Dakota5 acres, enjoys mowing, snow removal, digging, gardeningTechnology: Droid with Internet access, wi-fi laptops,Bluetooth phone to car speakers, microwave Internet,“I am amazed at the Internet…didn’t think I would use itas much as I do; it’s wonderful. ” 7
  9. 9. Kevin, IowaPartner in a 3,200 gallon-per-year winery, 75 acresTechnology: Waits to purchase new technology until thebugs are worked out.Tim, Iowa12 acres, small herd of cattle and sheep, family activelyinvolved in 4-HTechnology: “This little phone I’ve got in my pocket is aspowerful as the computer that I used when I first startedworking, and maybe even more powerful.”Tai, IowaOwns 10 acres, rents 20 acres, farms exotic poultry, birdsand large market gardenTechnology: Droid, Kindle, desktop, laptop, Netbook,wants an iPad, has a blog and Facebook account forpoultry business.Doug, Iowa3 horses, 3 donkeys, chickens, sheep, trained bordercollies, cats, avid gardener7 acres and rents 160 acres to a cattle rancherTechnology: Receives e-mail on smartphone, iPad,“I am online all the time.” 8
  10. 10. Debbie, Kansas3,000 acres and 500 head of cattleTechnology: “I always take my iPad; I take notes on itpretty frequently.” “The best way to reach me with amarketing message is online, somehow digital whetherit’s e-mail or through Facebook.”MaryAnn, KansasLarge cattle ranchTechnology: “I shop online a lot because I live in themiddle of nowhere.” Has Facebook on her phone.Lisa, Minnesota15 acres, recently sold horses, 2 dogs, 5 catsTechnology: “A text on my phone is the best way toreach me.” 9
  11. 11. Social Media and the Power of OpinionThe accessibility of technology allows online activity to be as prominent for making purchasedecisions as it is for general consumers. Rural lifestylers seek information, reviews, ratingsand recommendations online. This increased online activity is an addition in thedecision-making process.Rural lifestylers turn to others with whom they have varying degrees of trust. They aremore likely to seize control of the process and actively pull information helpful to them.Consumer-driven marketing activities, such as Internet reviews andword-of-mouth, in-store interactions and recollections of past experiencesmake up two-thirds of the touch-points during the purchasing process.1Those resources will be tapped to help provide focus to any number of brands during thesteps leading up to a purchase. The impact of these interactions is so great that rurallifestylers may confirm or destroy their purchase decision.In the end, they remain engaged with the brand through social media after the purchase,which in turn influences others in the purchase decision-making process.1 David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder and Ole Jorgen Vetvik. “The Consumer Decision Journey.” McKinsey Quarterly.Marketing and Sales Practices (June 2009) 10
  12. 12. “ If it is a major purchase, something that takes a little more thought, I jump on the Internet and I do my research first. ” Marketing Take AwayConsumer reviews impact each step of the purchase decision-making process.Rural lifestylers are very active in social media spaces, often seeking advicefrom influencers.“ Usually I’ll look online for information about a product or people’s testimonials.” 11
  13. 13. The statistics below are from our surveys conducted in January 2011 of the rural lifestyleaudience. This reinforces the various stages where online activity is prominent. Results from our January 2011 survey of 341 rural lifestylers across the U.S. 5 out of 6 Rural lifestylers read animal blogs or information websites 75% 6 out of 10 Participate in animal online forums Shop for products and or other social media purchase online Of those that shop online 99% More than 1/2 read product reviews and Ask for product 98% advice online write product reviews 12
  14. 14. Macro and Micro InfluencersWe believe there are two types of influencers that have decision-making impact on potentialcustomers; macro and micro influencers. These influencers are sought out while makingpurchasing decisions.Macro influencers have the most individual impact and the greatest influence among peers.They have always been a part of the decision process. • Industry thought leaders • Veterinarians and nutritionists • Dealers • Educators and research leaders • Member organizations and peer groups • Trusted and knowledgeable friends and family “ Ithe people I know and trust. look for the experience of ” 13
  15. 15. “ Your of connection with you, you trust kind friends, people that have some their opinions more. ”Micro influencers have developed through digital media. They have some credibility, mainlythrough acquaintance or common interests. They could be a complete stranger who is similarto the buyer in some way. • Social media friends • Online communities • Other shopping sites that contain ratings and reviews “ So often products be recommendations on different there will from people that I know and trust on Twitter.” 14
  16. 16. “ It gives me a little bit of feeling like, ‘Well, I haven’t made a bad decision.’ I mean, five other people who I don’t know agree that it’s a good product. I’m gonna feel a little more confident even if it’s ten dollars. I really do like reviews. I think it’s important. ” Marketing Take Away There is a strong pattern of influence happening online among complete strangers with a common interest. While not as powerful as macro influencers, micro influencers are becoming more and more important to the decision-making process. 15
  17. 17. What is the level of trust in influencers found online? And what is the impact of positive versus negative reviews?MarketingProfs released findings on March 29, 2011 that provide insight on trusting onlinesources when making purchase decisions.Fifty-nine percent of consumers say online consumer reviews and ratingsinfluence their buying decisions more than any type of online advertising.Fifty-four percent have decided to make a purchase based on an online review, while 58percent of consumers did not buy a product based on an online review. “ It is pretty important to read those, not you. I that take everything verbatim, but it sways ” 16
  18. 18. “ You always haveusing judgment.bad ones.100 comes down to to filter out the If there’s It great ones and two bad apples, well, I disregard those. If it’s half-and-half, then you start thinking, well there’s something wrong with this product. ”The feedback we heard from our interviews confirms that rural lifestylers are savvy enoughconsumers to know if someone is spouting off, or if reviews are legitimate. They look closelyat the source of the comment, whether macro or micro, as well as the context of the site thecomment is posted on. “ IIt’s a big decision maker if I and negative. consider both the positive the negative. see ” 17
  19. 19. “ Negative reviews can really influence me. If it is a problem that keeps coming up over and over on the same thing, then I know it would really be true. Otherwise, a lot of negative things may be because somebody is disgruntled and I won’t pay as much attention to that as I do to a positive review from a trusted source. ” Marketing Take Away Build an advocate community of macro and micro influencers to support your brand in consumer reviews. Aspire for a handful of influencers who frequently share brand updates with friends versus merely having many with little value. 18
  20. 20. Rural Lifestylers Rely Heavily on Online SearchHow do rural lifestylers find online reviews? Search.Search is an important way to bring influencers into the purchase decision-making processby bringing up not only product results, but product reviews, too. “ Just Googlingisthe item. Then lookingit. to see how it rated; who has rated ”Search engine marketing, search engine optimization and social media optimization effortsare critical to influence purchasing decisions. “ I’ll actuallyevenin as much information as I have. I’ll put enter the model number. Then I can see what everybody says about that model and kind of engine. ” 19
  21. 21. Social MediaNot only are rural lifestylers seeking feedback from search engines, but they are also findingmicro and macro influencers by asking questions on Facebook, industry forums andasking experts.Rural lifestylers are very active in social media spaces. Here are comments onthe use of Facebook, in particular. “ It’s surprising to me how manythink. Older people... neighbors are online than you more of my rural people up and down my road are all online and are all talking all of the time on Facebook. ” 20
  22. 22. “ I’m not Mr. Social Media, but it is a place where you talk to a lot more people on a regular basis even just reading their posts. ” Marketing Take Away Search is an important way to bring influencers into the purchase decision- making process by bringing up not only product results, but product reviews, too. Use offline media to direct audiences online where there is social activity and relevant reviews.“ People in rural communitiesmail that comes Internet, and depend on their direct depend on the through the Internet. Everybody I know is on Facebook. ” 21
  23. 23. Point-of-Purchase Decision Activity is ChangingMany rural lifestylers hold off their final purchase decisions until they’re in the store or on ane-commerce site. Up to 40 percent change their minds because of something they see,learn or do at this point.1 When another brand enters as an option, the time needed for theconsideration and evaluation steps of the purchase process is greatly condensed due to theability to research on mobile devices in store.Point-of-purchase interactions through mobile devices have become a morepowerful touch point.Facebook becomes a quick resource for opinions of influencers before a purchase decisionis made. “ I don’t trust the salespeople. I don’t trust the reviews on the website. So you tend to test your friends or Facebook your friends. ”1 David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder and Ole Jorgen Vetvik. “The Consumer Decision Journey.” McKinsey Quarterly.Marketing and Sales Practices (June 2009) 22
  24. 24. “ You canapost, ‘Has anybody bought lawn tractor lately?’ ”As we already addressed, when it comes to technology adoption, rural lifestylers are generalconsumers with the same purchasing behaviors. And along with the rest of the population,they too have a growing addiction to smartphones. With 33 percent of American householdsnow owning a smartphone, there is more opportunity to deliver unique content, without beingin front of a computer. 2While the exact numbers provided by research firms in agrimarketing vary, we are seeingthat the adoption rate at the producer and rural lifestyle level is meeting, or currentlyexceeding, the national averages. This is partly because the farmer sector of rural lifestylersis using the smartphone as a business tool. “ The mobile phone has come in handy because I can get the web on there so if I have a question I can go ahead and ask it.”2 Deloitte’s fifth edition State of the Media Democracy survey was conducted from September 10 to October 8, 2010. Theonline survey polled nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers age 14-75. 23
  25. 25. Rural lifestylers are becoming more familiar with bar code readers that pull up detailed information at the point of sale. Not only price comparisons, but also environmental and political actions about that brand’s parent company. During our interviews we also heard feedback on the intrigue regarding QR codes. According to a February 2011 survey of U.S. smartphone users by MGH, a Baltimore social media marketing company, 32 percent of respondents said they have scanned a QR code. Of those, 53 percent said they used the code to get a coupon or discount. And 72 percent said they were more likely to remember an advertisement with a QR code. We see the adoption rate for QR codes rising amongst rural lifestylers. Rewards received through scanning QR codes should be valuable and relevant to them. Deliver something that is not available elsewhere and is something worthwhile or surprising.“ I use my smartphone frequently to check prices on different things while I am actually at the store. While I don’t want to buy it at another place, if it’s the exact same product somewhere else that’s a little cheaper, I can negotiate a price where I’m standing. ” 24
  26. 26. “ Definitely, yeah, I would do that.” [when asked about QR Codes] “I’ve done the bar code scanner, so that would be interesting. ” Marketing Take Away Point-of-purchase interactions have become a more powerful touch point. Rural lifestylers are armed with mobile devices to scan QR codes and bar codes, as well as poll Facebook friends. Be responsive in social spaces when and where customers are asking questions. 25
  27. 27. Writing ReviewsAfter a purchase, rural lifestylers remain aggressively engaged, publicly promoting orassailing the products they have bought. As we revealed earlier, 98 percent of those inour e-mail survey who purchase products online also write reviews about apurchased product or service.During our interviews we asked the same questions. It was interesting to hear that mostreviews written by these folks were negative reviews. Surprisingly, a customer who did notdevelop a bond with the product during the initial purchase may turn into a positiveinfluencer after trying a competing product. Keep in contact with “bad-vocates,” and ask fortheir testimony as they have substantial impact. “ I do frequently write reviews on small purchase items as well as large purchases. ” 26
  28. 28. “ Yes, absolutely, if something is really awful I’ll write a review. I try to be fair. ”It is important to intercept post-purchase behavior and encourage online sharing to reinforce andenhance relationships and cultivate influencers into brand advocates.Consumer reviews impact each step as rural lifestylers navigate through the purchase decision-mak-ing process. By recognizing rural lifestylers’ purchasing behaviors, create a user ex-perience that matches their expectations, converts sales and builds relationships. “ I hope that the company looks at the review as well. And makes their next version based on what the reviews are.” 27
  29. 29. These customer insights may extend past the marketing and bring an overall commitment tocustomer satisfaction throughout all areas like product development, sales and distribution. “ No matter whether my question was positive or negative. I think that shows a lot of transparency and ability to connect with a consumer and listen to them. I would love to have a company respond back to what I post. ” 28
  30. 30. Marketing Take AwaysConsumer reviews impact each step of the purchase decision-makingprocess. Rural lifestylers are very active in social media spaces, askingadvice from influencers.There is a strong pattern of influence happening online among completestrangers with a common interest. While not as powerful as macro influencers,micro influencers are becoming more and more important to the decision-making process.Build an advocate community of macro and micro influencers to support yourbrand in consumer reviews. Aspire for a handful of influencers who frequentlyshare brand updates with friends versus merely having many with little value.Search is an important way to bring influencers into the purchase decision-making process by bringing up not only product results, but product reviews,too. Use offline media to direct audiences online where there is social activityand reviews.Point-of-purchase interactions have become a more powerful touch point. Rurallifestylers are armed with mobile devices to scan QR codes and bar codes, aswell as poll Facebook friends. Be responsive in social spaces when and wherecustomers are asking questions. 29
  31. 31. What’s Next?This study identifies the important role of macro and micro influencers and their impact uponthe Modern Purchase Process—especially as it relates to a rural lifestyle audience.The question now is, how do marketers compete in this new environment?The data and opinions collected for this study will be used to support additional thoughtpapers in the near future. Paulsen Marketing will address specific marketing tactics toeffectively reach the rural lifestyle market, create a positive online community, convertsales and sustain relationships. Paulsen Marketing will also provide additional insight andrecommendations related to brand monitoring and social media measurement. Paulsen Marketing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, specializes in rural lifestyle and agricultural marketing. For further details regarding this study, please contact Alicia DeGeest. 605-336-1745 • www.paulsenmarketing.com 30
  32. 32. A special thanks from Paulsen to all who participated in this study. We welcome you to continue referencing this study at www.paulsenmarketing.com/agri-thoughts. the ag and rural lifestyle specialists www.paulsenmarketing.com • 605.336.1745 3510 S. First Ave. Circle • Sioux Falls, SD 57105 Follow us:

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