Half of UK consumers trust friends’ recommendations versus brand advertising


Mention Me’s third annual report into customer advocacy and referral trends, reveals what motivated UK consumers to refer brands, which sectors and brands are most referable, and which qualities were most likely to drive a brand recommendation. 

Trust remains a recurrent theme throughout the results, reflecting the increasing value and influence that consumers place on transparency. Personal recommendations have become even more important, with a higher number (37%) of those questioned recommending a brand in the past month, and a further 26% in the past two to four months. Women are 20% more likely than men to have referred in the past month.  

For the third year running, friends are the most trusted source for UK consumers, with 28% of all those questioned trusting a friend’s referral more than anyone else. Equally 41% of those questioned stated they’d be put off recommending a brand if a friend or family member told them not to shop there. 

Trust in our partner’s recommendations has increased this year with 23% of those questioned (up from 16% in 2018), and with men slightly more than women (27% vs 20%). Trust in celebrity (2%) and blogger (3%) endorsements remain extremely low, and in politicians, only trusted by 1% of respondents. There has been a slight decrease in trust in online reviews (11% down from 12% in 2018 and 21% in 2017), perhaps in response to reports of ‘fake’ reviews.  

The top two attributes that a brand needs to make them referable according to those questioned, remain the same from the past two years but have increased in importance, with ‘being trustworthy / credible’ still coming up top (72%, up from 49% in 2018), and ‘great customer service’ ( 63% up from 51% in 2018). The third attribute this year has become ‘the brand being better than the competition’ (51%), beating the previous years’ offering good discounts / referral offers (46%).

Loyalty is emerging as an even bigger driver for customer advocacy than in previous years. 32% of all those questioned chose being enrolled in a loyalty programme as the best thing a brand could do to get them to shop with them again, with a gender split of 32% more women (37% of those questioned) compared with men (28% of those questioned) choosing this. A further 27% would be swayed if the brand showed them they cared about how satisfied they were. Personalised online advertising isn’t popular chosen by only 10%, nor being shown other products (11%). 

Ethics matter even more than last year too, with a brand’s attitudes and behaviour around sustainability and social responsibility paramount for all respondents, but even more so for women. For those questioned, people are more likely to refer a brand:

  • If it paid their workers a fair wage (49%) – 17% increase YoY, and 14% more for women
  • Was committed to scrapping the use of plastics and addressing environmental concerns (49%) – 23% increase YoY, and 19% more for women
  • Was committed to working with local suppliers and hiring from the local community (40%) – 29% increase YoY, and 33% more women

The top three referable sectors across every demographic in this year’s report are Food and drink (75%), Holidays and travel (63%) and Technology (52%). There has however been an upsurge in referral across every sector with all respondents, with the sharpest increase in financial services with 49% of respondents (17% increase YoY). New sector this year Subscriptions is rated highly with 50% of all respondents, and only dropping with the 55+ age group. Sector splits for referral are apparent across many sectors most markedly in:

  • Women’s fashion – 139% more female
  • Beauty – 117% more female
  • Men’s fashion – 44% more male
  • Sports equipment – 40% more male
  • Tech – 32% more male
  • Financial services – 31% more male

The top five referred brands for all respondents this year were Amazon (33%), Netflix (27%), Aldi (22%), Tesco (19%) and Marks and Spencer (18%). They beat John Lewis (14%), Ikea (14%), Nike (13%) and The Range (13%). It’s of little surprise that Amazon tops the list again, but the other brands rated highly suggest a rising importance for UK consumers in price and value, but also reflects a successful year of competitive advertising campaigns by the budget supermarkets.  

“In this uncertain economic and political climate, UK consumers appear torn between being influenced by price, and by a brand’s ethics, behaviour and transparency. Going hand in hand with this is the value that the respondents place on loyalty with those they shop with, and excellent customer service. Personal recommendations through referral were chosen as the most trusted source by even more respondents this year, across each demographic. This isn’t surprising to us as trust in other forms of marketing continues to decline. Brands should respond positively to this, and realise that if they put their customers first they will be their best advocates enabling them to drive growth through referrals,” comments Andy Cockburn, CEO of Mention Me.