Digital Influence Index Reveals Growing Impact of Internet on Consumer Decision-Making

Global Study by Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive Highlights Opportunities for Brands

Jun 23, 2010, 08:00 ET from Fleishman-Hillard Inc.

NEW YORK, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to driving consumer decisions about a range of products and services, the Internet is by far the most influential media channel — but marketers have yet to capitalize on that influence. That is the central finding of the 2010 Digital Influence Index, released today by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications in conjunction with Harris Interactive.

The study also measures several key aspects of consumers' use of the Internet, from media consumption patterns, to the degree of adoption of various digital behaviors, to involvement with online social networking. Now in its second year, the Index has expanded to include 48 percent of the global online population, spanning France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan and the United States.

"Our survey provides overwhelming evidence that the Internet is at the center of the decision-making process of consumers," said Dave Senay, Fleishman-Hillard president and chief executive officer. "It suggests, definitively, that marketers who do not have end-to-end strategies which put digital influence at the center of their marketing plans are doing so at their own peril. Marketers who 'get it' will be able to leapfrog their competitors who don't."

The Digital Influence Index reveals the following nine key insights into the Internet's global influence on consumers' lives:

1. Funding Gap: Globally, digital dominates in influence but not marketing dollars spent. The Internet is by far the most important medium in the lives of consumers, but companies continue to underinvest in their online marketing efforts.

2. On the Edge: Chinese Internet users are more advanced, but are early adopters, with room to grow. Although the Internet is the most important medium in all countries, it plays an even more critical role in China, home to the world's largest and fastest-growing population of online consumers.

3. Beyond Mainstream: Digital is core to decisions — for research, purchases and peer influence. The Internet plays an integral role in the decision-making process.

4. Too Much Information (TMI): Online oversharing of personal information isn't just a bore, but a rising threat, as well. As more users embrace social media and generate content, a consensus is emerging — people share too much personal information, and too little of it is particularly interesting.

5. Cautiously Trusting: People trust the Internet most when they have multiple sources — and a friend is one of them.

6. Pay to Play Doesn't Play: Trust in bloggers for hire remains weak. Across all countries studied, Internet users report a lack of trust in content produced by sponsored or paid bloggers.

7. Real-Time Trust: Microbloggers trust companies that listen and respond in real time. Users who have adopted microblogging tend to trust companies that monitor their online activity. They seem to view this online listening as a sign that organizations care about their needs and want their feedback.

8. Mobility Gap: As apps multiply and speeds increase, mobile users snap up smartphones — but realize only a fraction of their potential. Although mobile Internet use is growing, a significant gap exists between the capabilities available to mobile phone users and the number of individuals who actually take advantage of them.

9. Where to From Here?: As Internet use continues to grow, will its influence grow, too? Depends who you ask. As important as the Internet is now, will its consumer influence continue to grow in the future? The answer varies from country to country ... but in China it is a resounding "yes!"

To download a complimentary copy of the Digital Influence Index white paper and read in-depth analysis on all nine insights, please visit

About the Digital Influence Index

The Digital Influence Index is a joint venture between Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive. The project was designed and led by Fleishman-Hillard's digital research group, a team within the agency's network focused on providing research that supports the digital transformation of communications. Analysis and insight development was conducted in partnership with Harris Interactive.

The fieldwork for this study was also conducted by Harris Interactive through a comprehensive, 15-minute online survey among a representative sample of 4,243 Internet users in China, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

This work took place between December 2009 and January 2010. Respondents to the survey were recruited from the various panels managed by Harris Interactive across the markets surveyed.

The data was weighted to online population targets, including those based on age, gender, education, region and Internet usage. Further weighting was applied to the analysis of the combined results to reflect the online population sizes in each country.

The Digital Influence Index was constructed by factoring in both consumption of a medium and the importance consumers attach to that consumption. Respondents were allowed to give various media a score out of 100 for the amount of time they spend on them and then rate how important this time is to their decisions. Consumption and importance were each scored out of 100 to produce a percentage score for each and a total score out of 200. This latter score is halved to produce a combined percentage score that sums up the influence of the medium.

About Fleishman-Hillard

Fleishman-Hillard Inc., one of the world's leading strategic communications firms, has built its reputation on creating integrated solutions that deliver what its clients value most: meaningful, positive and measurable impact on the performance of their organizations. The firm is widely recognized for excellent client service and a strong company culture founded on teamwork, integrity and personal commitment. Based in St. Louis, the firm operates throughout North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America through its 80 owned offices. For more information, visit the Fleishman-Hillard website at

Fleishman-Hillard is a part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) ( Omnicom is a leading global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom's branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, interactive, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to more than 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Fleishman-Hillard Inc.