August 25, 2010, 3:05 PM

Consumers trust information found online less than offline messages

A marketing mix should include online and offline media, survey finds.

Consumers find offline sources of information more trustworthy than information found online, according to a new survey from ICOM, a division of direct marketing services firm Epsilon Data Management.

The survey of more than 2,500 U.S. adults found that consumers trust information received from medical professionals (80%), friends and family (57%) and newspapers (26%) most highly. Respondents rated information found through social media outlets such as Facebook (8%), YouTube (7%), Twitter (7%) and online forums (8%) as least trustworthy.  

The most trusted online information source is company web sites, which 22% of U.S. consumers say they trust. Information received via e-mail is trusted by 12% of consumers. Other offline media forms fared moderately well: TV was trusted by 20%, brochures or fliers by 18% and radio by 16%.

The survey also found that nearly a third of U.S. adults, or 32%, do not use social media. The report says that the findings indicate that a multichannel marketing mix of online and offline media is important.

“A key take away from this research is that marketers targeting coveted 18-34 year olds who are tempted to invest solely in social media could be missing a significant portion of their audience,” says Warren Storey, vice president of ICOM.

The report also delved into what motivates consumers to consider messages marketers send their way. “The factors driving people to certain channels are trust, convenience, richness and relevance of information and environmental concerns,” the report states.

For example, 79% of respondents who indicated a preference for direct mail said it is more convenient than e-mail as a delivery method. Of those who preferred e-mail, 43% said they liked that they could choose which information they wanted sent to them. “Ensuring consumers receive information important to them and in the right channel plays a critical role in whether or not you will gain their attention and ultimately their response,” the report states.

How marketers invest their budgets continues to shift among online and offline channels. According to Forrester Research, U.S. interactive marketing spending will reach more than $29 billion this year. That spending comes at the expense of traditional offline channels. 60% of marketers say they are shifting money away from traditional marketing to fund interactive efforts. 40% say they will decrease spending on direct mail.

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