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Shoppers trust personal recommendations more than any other brand advertising

51% of UK consumers trust brand recommendations from their partners or friends more than any other source of advertising.

That was one of the key discoveries presented by Mention Me following its survey of 2,000 consumers. Other findings include the most trusted source of brand recommendations, what makes shoppers likely (and unlikely) to recommend brands, and how to encourage them to shop with retailers again.

The power of brand recommendations

28% of consumers trust a brand referral from a friend more than anyone else, rising to 51% when considering partners, too. But personal recommendations don’t only have a positive influence for retailers. 41% are unlikely to recommend a brand their friends or family have advised against. Interestingly, consumer trust in partner’s recommendations significantly varies between genders, with women less trusting than their male counterparts.

Meanwhile, trust in influencer endorsements is at an all-time low. The least trusted source of advertising, not surprisingly perhaps, is politicians – just 1% trust their brand recommendations.

While trust is more important than ever for consumers, most of whom are savvy and do their research before shopping, there’s good news for retailers offering a great product and service. Mention Me’s research shows that the brands getting it right are likely to be  shared- 37% of shoppers have recommended a retailer in the past month (rising to 63% over the past four months).

The traits of recommended brands

The top three attributes of referrable brands are being trustworthy, providing great customer service, and being better than the competition. The absence of discounts in the top three (it’s the fourth most important attribute) highlights the rising prominence of the customer journey with the brand at every touchpoint. Consumers are no longer driven solely by price; rather, they want a smooth, personal and authentic experience they can rely on.

In addition, loyalty is becoming an even bigger driver for customer advocacy. Enrollment in a loyalty programme is the best way to motivate 32% of consumers to shop again, and 27% would be swayed by a brand that shows it cares about their satisfaction. In contrast, just 10% of shoppers are likely to return to brands as a result of personalised online advertising.

Unsurprisingly, some sectors are more likely to come up in conversation – and therefore be recommended – than others. Consumers across every age group, gender and geography are highly likely to recommend brands in the food and drink, travel, and fashion industries. But that’s not to say they don’t talk about less obvious sectors. 49% of shoppers, for example, are likely to refer a finance brand to friends.

Interestingly, there’s a prominent gender split in the sectors likely to be recommended. Women most often recommend fashion and beauty brands; men talk more about those in the sports, tech and finance sectors.

The importance of brand ethics

A notable finding in Mention Me’s research is the rising importance of brand ethics. Consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability and social responsibility, and this is now influencing the brands they choose to shop with.

49% of people are more likely to refer brands that pay workers a fair wage, are committed to scrapping the use of plastics and are addressing environmental concerns. Again, there’s a clear gender split: women are 33% more likely than men to consider a retailer’s commitment to working with local suppliers and hiring from the local community.


In this uncertain economic and political climate, UK consumers are torn between price and brand ethics. The majority want to choose retailers living their values, but may not always be able to resist generous discounts from brands that fall short on ethical behaviour. Loyalty and excellent service also play an even larger role in building meaningful customer relationships. 

But above everything, one clear theme emerges: as trust in other forms of marketing continues to decline, happy customers are the key to unlocking long-term sustainable growth.

Mention Me’s full research report available here.

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