Make it social with Brazil’s digital consumer

With approximately 87 million Internet users, Brazil is emerging as a digital powerhouse. Its digital consumers are highly engaged – 83 percent share content with others and 44 percent either rate or comment on products and services. An exploding middle class has produced a large influx of new, tech-savvy consumers, offering companies a unique opportunity to capture market share (there are now as many middle- and upper-class Brazilians as there are people in France and Britain combined).

60 percent Percentage of customers who visit a variety of sites to learn more about a given product

Businesses looking to engage Brazil’s digital enthusiasts, however, face a big problem: 65 percent of these users are dissatisfied with their online purchase experience. What companies need to do is figure out how to satisfy Brazilians’ craving for interaction. We’ve found that interactivity (for example, live chat with prospective customers via a company Web site) generally has a greater influence on the purchase decision than one-way touch points (e.g. an email received from a company). To win these customers over, businesses must figure out how to exert influence at each stage of the decision journey.

Breaking into the initial consideration set

Based on a survey of 5,000 customers in three product categories – travel packages, broadband and washing machines – we discovered that new customers make up about one-third of all purchases and they merit special attention. In 60 percent of cases, these first-time customers buy one of the brands they considered at the start of the journey. And they only consider one to two brands at this early stage.

Adding to the pressure to make it into the initial consideration set is the fact that most consumers—both new and returning customers – evaluate on average only two to four brands throughout the entire purchase process across these categories.

With the need to cut through all the marketing noise, a company must build excitement around its brand and engage consumers by providing relevant content – such as videos, games and even promotions – wherever new customers are likely to first learn of their products (e.g., online communities, shopping sites). Most importantly, they need to offer consumers opportunities to socialize and collaborate.

“With the need to cut through all the marketing noise, a company must build excitement around its brand and engage consumers by providing relevant content wherever new customers are likely to first learn of their products.”

União, one of the leading sugar brands in Brazil, used such an approach to relaunch its previously unsuccessful low-calorie sugar alternative. On the product’s Facebook page, the company offered consumers who “liked” the product a voucher for a free sample of pastries made with the product, together with the opportunity to post their own reactions in text, photos, and videos. The results? Not only did União end up with one of the top 20 Facebook pages in Brazil but the sales of its sugar substitute increased by 100 percent in six weeks.

Provide content that helps customers evaluate products

A clear majority of customers – about 60 percent – visit a variety of sites to learn more about a given product. While in the beginning of their evaluation process customers often go to manufacturer and retailer sites, they usually end up at social media sites (e.g., Facebook, Orkut, Twitter) to find out what others think about the brands they are considering. Interestingly, about half of consumers go through this evaluative cycle more than three times before deciding on a brand. So companies must ensure that their information is available on all these various sites. And they need to offer consumers with ways to interact in real time (e.g., real-time chat) with company representatives who can answer their product questions.

Livraria Saraiva, a major Brazilian bookstore, discovered that many of its potential customers visited the leading price comparison site,, before deciding where to buy a given book. Livraria Saraiva now offers discounted prices for its most popular titles on that site, enabling it to influence consumers at a critical moment in the decision making process. This initiative is credited with helping Livraria Saraiva vault to the 8th largest online seller in Brazil, and the only book store in the top 10.

Stay in touch

After customers make their purchase, companies need to look for ways of sustaining relationships through online communities and by offering customized services. When it comes to buying travel packages and broadband services, for example, previous customers who won’t even consider another brand make 40 percent of all purchases.

Porto Seguro, one of Brazil’s largest insurance companies, is rewarding loyal customers through a program that promotes driving safety using Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Youtube, and a dedicated web site. The company is offering its customers an app that not only shows real time traffic conditions in Sao Paulo but provides recommendations as to the best travel times. In addition, customers who maintain a clean driving record – no traffic violations—are given a five percent discount. This program generated more than 230,000 fans on Facebook (more than 5 percent of their total client base), encouraged low risk behavior, and became an effective lead generation engine to identify the best potential customers. Porto Seguro has the fifth largest Facebook page in Brazil, and the top one among insurance companies.

Companies in Brazil need to do more than just be digital. If they want to be relevant, they need to move beyond the basics of one-way digital communication. Engaging customers means marketers need to be much more pro-active about developing points of interaction with customers through vehicles like live chat support, interactive games and contests, and platforms where visitors contribute content and interact with each other.