Brands are betting big on influencers these days but a new study from RRD shows they’re underestimating the power of word of mouth, which the data show is actually consumers’ preferred method for learning about a new brand, product or service.

Other untapped traditional channels include direct mail and in-store signage, a finding that reflects the major differences between marketer assumptions and what consumers say actually influences their brand awareness and buying decisions.

Word of mouth is the preferred method for brand awareness for 28 percent of consumers yet just 4 percent of marketers cited it as a consumer preference for awareness.

Word of mouth outpaced social media at 23 percent, cable TV at 12 percent and online/digital ads at 11 percent. What’s more, RRD found that word of mouth has a higher research-to-purchase ratio (40 percent) than social media (30 percent), online/digital ads (27 percent) or print ads (16 percent). Meanwhile, just 7 percent of marketers identified word of mouth as a channel that results in consumer purchases.

While 82 percent of marketers believe influencers drive purchases, just 26 percent of RRD’s respondents said that influencers make them more likely to purchase new products or services.

Almost a quarter (21 percent) of marketers said that shoppers use Snapchat to discover new brands but only 7 percent of consumers agreed.

In addition, at least one in three consumers follow brands they like on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. When it comes to following their favorite brands, consumers prefer Pinterest (21 percent), TikTok (20 percent) and Twitter (19 percent)—over Snapchat (16 percent) and Reddit (11 percent).

Fifty-one percent of consumers, particularly Gen Y (65 percent), were more excited to receive direct mail in the past year than they were in the year prior. Other cohorts did too, including Gen Z (57 percent) and Gen X (53 percent). At 36 percent, baby boomers were the least excited about getting direct mail.

As indicated by 62 percent, consumers are ready to resume their pre-pandemic shopping habits. Many tested the waters with new brands but 35 percent admit that these changes due to the pandemic will only last less than six months whereas 43 percent of marketers expect consumers to not return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits for another 6-12 months.

Lastly, 58 percent of consumers told RRD that in-store signage is influential in their purchase decisions, with 80 percent preferring to shop in stores with signage that helps navigate the store and avoid crowds.

RRD’s findings are based on twin surveys conducted among 250 US marketers and 1,000 consumers in July 2021.