Consumer buying behaviour: Analysis of online conversations in Ireland

“The Sales Institute is acutely aware of the changing trends that affect sales professionals in all sectors and no trend has impacted as much as the advent of customers researching the product and services that they are looking to purchase on social media. This is done before they ever engage with the sales person. Thus we commissioned Olytico, who are experts at social media monitoring and analysis, to look back at 2014 and see what the public are talking about before they make a purchase.

One of the surprises is the prevalence of message boards and forums and also that people are discussing which financial products they are planning on buying, how much they will spend and all of this with people who largely admit to not having any expertise in the area! We hope you enjoy reading the findings and that it can help your sales strategy going forward”.

Bob Hoffman, CEO, The Sales Institute

Infographic of consumer buying behaviour conversations online in Ireland in 2014


Attitudes towards buying in Ireland

Consumer buying behaviour is defined as the decision processes and acts of consumers involved in buying and using products or services. It is therefore crucial to understand why consumers make the purchases they make and what factors influence purchasing decisions. In an ever-changing society, listening to and engaging in social media conversations about what people are thinking of buying can be tremendously valuable. Olytico monitored and analysed the conversation around purchasing decisions, intent to purchase and advice on purchasing plans in Ireland from January 1 to November 30 2014.

During this eleven month period in Ireland, purchasing intent mentions totalled 3,900, with March being the peak month for online mentions. The 497 mentions were driven by discussions on cameras, with some seeking advice about camera specifications.

Message boards and forums were the most popular medium for conversations to take place, accounting for 70% of results (2,727). Those discussing the topic on message boards and forums seek advice from others, and mention issues which influence their decisions such as quality, cost and where to purchase the item from.

Twitter accounted for 28% of all mentions, while the remaining 2% was made of online conversations on sites including Facebook, blogs and comments on news sites. As a medium Twitter is used to make statements about intent to purchase, whereas other mediums delved into deeper conversation. This phenomenon can be explained by the limited number of characters offered to an account holder when tweeting, thus restricting lengthy conversations.

Word cloud

The themes of the online conversations are depicted in the word cloud below. It represents the Top 100 most frequently used words in the 3,900 results analysed (the larger the word the greater the number of mentions).

Sales Word Cloud

Top 10 Products/Services

The scope and range of the conversation on purchasing plans were vast during the period analysed. Mentions of intended/planned purchases included items such as cameras, bicycles, FIFA 15, steam mops, toddler’s beds, cows, cat food, lamb shanks, Nespresso machine and boats.

The top ten most talked about products or services for intended purchase in Ireland are (Note one is the highest):

The Top 10 products mentioned in the analysis of purchasing decision conversations in Ireland in 2014.

Cameras and camera equipment, lenses, are the most popular items for intended purchase in online conversations, as combined they represent over 1,800 results.

Top 5 Brands

Of particular note was the advice consumer sought on message boards and forums as to what was the best brand in the market. Price comparison between brands as well as potential problems and experiences others had with specific brands fuelled online conversations.

The top five most commonly mentioned brands for purchase in Ireland all relate to technological/electrical products. They are:

olytico - si - top 5

Buying Second Hand

Noticeably, consumers discussed their intentions to purchase some products second hand, including cars, bicycles, phones, game consoles and boats.

As evidenced from the word cloud below, the most commonly featured item which consumers discussed buying second hand was a boat.

The word cloud illustrates the Top 100 most frequently used words in relation to second hand purchases analysed (the larger the word the greater number of mentions).

Second Hand Sales Word Cloud


Trusting Online Advice

The most interesting phenomenon which has emerged from our analysis is the trust which those engaged in online conversations have in their fellow contributors to message boards and forums.

The term ‘advice’ was mentioned 265 times during online conversations.


Consumers discuss their intention to purchase financial products, such as shares, divulging to others the amount of money they wish to invest, intention to trade online, and an acknowledgement of little understanding of the matter. This information leaves consumers vulnerable to fraudulent trading platforms and susceptible to scams.

After being strongly advised not to invest money in this way, and alternatively directed to mediums where one can practice stock trading using fantasy share, the consumer replies to all sharing the news that their advice has been taken.

Others also take on board the advice of contributors and other consumers as opposed to approaching an industry expert, and as such industry experts appear to be absent from these threads, and do not attempt to engage with consumers.


The online platform is fast becoming a network on which consumers trust the opinions of other contributors and use it as an influential factor affecting their purchasing decisions.

An example is that of a consumer who is considering buying a car, Volvo S60 T5, and is looking for advice:

“I’m thinking of buying a 2007 S60 T5. It’s a one owner vehicle and is currently being advertised on Carzone. The main thing that is stopping me at the moment from just buying it is the mileage which is 140k miles. If you were driving approx. 4k miles per year would you let this stop you?”

Despite some initial doubts, following information and advice from fellow contributors, the consumer returns to the forum:

“Update- I’ve agreed a deal and paid a small holding deposit on the T5 and will be going to check it out tomorrow……”

Days later the consumer returns to the forum to inform contributors of the following:

“I picked up the car on Saturday and I’ve been smiling since. Have to say it’s an absolute joy to drive….”

This example showcases that the purchasing decision is one which, today in Ireland, is heavily influenced by online conversations.


For organisations, listening to social media is invaluable. It provides a platform through which companies can engage with their customers, generates awareness as to what products and services are being discussed, and the consumers’ sentiment towards specific brands and products.

Furthermore, as consumer buying behaviour and purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by these online conversations, companies which fail to listen and engage in these conversations are missing an opportunity to showcase their products and services to already interested consumers.

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