The Science of Sharing study, exposes the methods consumers use to research different kinds of products online and the influence social media can have on other consumer's purchases. 

The study, conducted by Beyond and M Booth, revealed the results of their involved 1,583 respondents in the US and 1,503 participants in the UK. The goal of the study was to determine the path consumers take when researching online to inform product purchase decisions, information which companies can use to tailor websites and social media activities for their specific customer base. The study classified the products as high or low involvement products. Consumers researching high involvement products, such as cars, were more likely to to be influenced by review sites and the product's own website, whereas social media sites were more influential for low involvement products, such as fashion and music purchases.

High Price Tag Means High Involvement

According to the study:

High Involvement products are products that involve more risk. They are often are more costly, less frequently purchased and necessitate more time and effort in the research phase. Conversely, Low Involvement products are typically more of an impulse purchase, or a purchase done out of habit, and are generally less costly involving minimal research and deliberation."

The researchers concluded that consumers for high involvement products rely on review sites and product-specific sites in their decision making process because the quality of the products is a key issue. Those sites tend to be more information-heavy than social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter. The study states that the higher the consumer's commitment of time and money in a product, the higher the expectations for the product.

Low-down on Low Involvement

Low involvement products, such as music and beauty products, are image-based rather than research driven, according to the study, so social media greatly influences purchase decisions. When people use social media, they tend to do so for entertainment reasons rather than with an intent to shop. According to the study:

Consumers might be just as likely to be exposed to High Involvement brands as they are to Low Involvement brands online, but they are more likely to skip the research-intensive step when purchasing the latter. For example, people who researched automotive products were most influenced by search, the brand website and talking to friends and family (word of mouth). Conversely, people who researched music online were more influenced by Youtube, his or her Facebook friends and TV Shows."

The research data shows that more than 50 percent of consumers have used Facebook to interact with a brand, and 20 percent get brand information from Facebook on a weekly basis. More than 40 percent of respondents have written product reviews on a website. In short, consumers greatly influence product perception via social networks:

People are no longer passive consumers of advertisements and marketing campaigns. Instead, consumers are now creating content that has the potential to influence others through non-traditional media sources such as review and social media sites."

High involvement vs. low involvement products

People Patterns

When it comes to consuming and creating content within social media platforms, the study reveals two distinct categories of people: high sharers and low sharers. High sharers are the 20 percent of online consumers who create content, such as posting links or writing posts about brands or 'liking' and following brands online. Low sharers, the other 80 percent of online consumers, seldom post original content (and apparently tend to have handlebar mustaches):

High vs. low sharers

The research results also outline three different types of shoppers: budget shoppers, quality seekers and fashion seekers. Budget shoppers are more likely to use search channels when doing research and are less likely to make a purchase until he or she finds the 'right price.' These shoppers also tend to use social media less often and have lower incomes or product loyalty. Quality seekers, on the other hand, tend to be older males researching high involvement products and are likely to be influenced by search and review sites. Fashion seekers are influenced by a product's image, tend to be younger females and heavy social media users with a lot of Facebook friends. According to the study:

These three shopping psychographics revealed in our study make obvious that brands need to factor high and low involvement products, high and low sharers and who those people are personality wise within each channel when creating a social strategy."

The study concludes that companies should tailor their marketing strategy to identify high sharers in the 'most effective digital location,' engage them and give them something to share.