‘People see influencers for who they are’: Why Reddit is becoming a retail recommendations giant

The power of the influencer is waning, and as cost-of-living rises, and discretionary spending dives, consumers just want straight information about a product or service. Enter, the anonymous, opinionated Redditor.

As David A. Yovanno, global CEO of partnership platform impact.com, pointed out to Mumbrella in a September interview: “You think back ten years ago, people didn’t really think to search around for what other people had to say about something. Now, if they hear about something, the very first thing that people are doing is they’re checking to see what other people have to say about that product, that trend.”

Reddit has been at the heart of such recommendations for close to two decades. And with not only influencer trust, but also brand trust diving, these retail recommendations are sought out like never before.

Rob Gaige, director of global insights at Reddit, talks to Mumbrella about how the platform plays a central part in the retail chain – and how this can be powerful for businesses and brands.

Reddit has become a trusted source of retail info. How are people actually using Reddit in regard to recommendations, shopping tips, etc?

Recommendations on Reddit are as specific and nuanced as the people using the platform. Product recommendations vary from the ideal baby formula to the best pair of jeans to wear on a first date. We also see B2B recommendations on the best SaaS platform to invest in or the best training course to advance your marketing career. With the holiday season approaching, we are seeing a rise in gift recommendations, and of course, the best hacks to maximise the points, rewards, and discounts on upcoming travel.”

What do you think makes Reddit the forum for this?

Many people are surprised to learn that nearly 25% of posts on Reddit are recommendations.*

What makes these recommendations unique is that they stem from nuanced conversations. If you ask for a car recommendation, a redditor won’t just answer, they will say, ‘it depends’ – How big is your family? What activities do you do? How far and how often do you drive?

This is what makes Reddit different from an algorithm. It’s real people who appreciate that there is rarely a one-size-fits-all answer to any recommendation.

*[This is based on 12 months of internal data, collected by Reddit in 2022 using a methodology Gaige calls ‘social listening’. “We created a boolean to capture the universe of recommendation posts and compared that to the total post volume for the year.”]

What does your data tell us about the waning impact of influencers?

The reality is that people see influencers for who they are: paid spokespeople.

They appreciate their entertainment value and still use them to discover new products, but they don’t always trust that what they’re being told is 100% true.

So, people are increasingly turning to communities to hear unbiased reviews. It’s also why people are increasingly leery of reviews on certain sites, which they know can be manipulated through paid reviews.

When searching for reviews of a product or service, people want an opinion they can trust, without an ulterior motive of financial incentive.

What are your tips for best using Reddit to source retail/brand info that can be trusted?

First, if you’re asking about a specific product, it’s likely already on Reddit. Brands can directly search Reddit for a specific SKU.

I’ve personally done this in a store when deciding on a TV, by searching for competing TVs for an exact model number and adding “review” at the end. You’d be amazed at how detailed the conversations on Reddit can be in their reviews.

If you’re starting from scratch, I’d recommend finding a community related to your product category.

There are over 100,000 active communities on Reddit across every passion, and a TV recommendation from r/hometheater will be quite different from r/homedesign. Once you find a relevant community, post honestly and openly. Be as specific as possible and be open to clarifying questions. The more information you provide, the better the recommendation you’ll receive.

And lastly, go into it with a bit of humour and self-awareness. Redditors will sometimes give you the hard truth you need to hear rather than the answer you want! Don’t be surprised if redditors call you out on your unrealistic expectations. It’s this authenticity that provides the magic behind the recommendations.

Your latest insights show that 62% of Aussies on Reddit will spend more this year, despite cost-of-living. Do you have any theories on why this may be the case?

To start, it’s important to acknowledge that part of this is simply from inflation, and overall purchases will cost more than last year. So, while Aussies may spend more, they may not actually be purchasing more than they would have otherwise. For many, it’s about maintaining the status quo at a higher price point.

The other consideration is that redditors tend to be much more financially savvy than users of other platforms. While they are subject to the economic downturn like everyone else, their financial preparedness means they still have the ability to spend on the things they want.

Redditors do spend more, but they are also more likely to feel like their financial prospects will be better tomorrow than they are today. They’re growing, and their spending matches that growth.

Any other insights you’d like to share?

We haven’t spoken about what this means for brands, but it’s important to know that the recommendation engine on Reddit can be incredibly powerful for businesses. There are two key aspects to understand.

First: redditors can only recommend products they know about, and the good news is they’re information-hungry and detail-obsessed. You can’t give a redditor too much information. So, if they know about your product’s differentiators, they will willingly share that with others. Winning these communities over pays dividends for years to come as they advocate on your brand’s behalf and become loyal.

Second: the upvote/downvote feature on Reddit means that the best content always rises to the top. We see this play out with smaller brands consistently rising to the top of recommendations. It’s not just the brands with the biggest budgets that win, but the brands that the community believes have the best offering.


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