An article just posted on eMarketer presents a striking statistic from Nielson Online: 58% of people who shop for consumer electronics in the U.S. will use the internet to research their purchasing decision. This is compared to a mere 8% who would field advice from friends and family. And these are not consumers who ultimately bought the product online, but who purchased from a bricks-and-mortar store.
Now, consumer electronics is a category of goods that might lend itself to this kind of pre-purchase research more than other types of goods and services. But this statistic should nevertheless give pause to any small business owner.
I’ve said it before and can’t say it enough. Whatever goods and services you are selling, in today’s rapidly changing economy you won’t be able to compete unless you have an effective online presence. The culture has long since passed the tipping point where using the internet was something reserved only for the young and tech-savvy. The rise and dominance of Google, among other factors, has created an environment where people feel that the world, literally, is at their fingertips, and they expect to find what they need easily and quickly.
Still, even I was surprised that online research trumped traditional word-of-mouth so handily. I know that if I was shopping for something in a heavily competitive market, or something that involved complicated choices, like choosing a new cell phone provider, I would ask around for opinions from people I trust. What makes online consumer research so enticing?
First, the faltering U.S. economy and the high price of gas are making people not only drive less and stay at home more, but also exercise more caution in t heir spending. When you are allocating your disposable income more carefully, you are going to put more effort into researching your options so you can be confident you’ve made the right choice. The internet is the best way to acquire the most information in the shortest possible time. It’s more efficient to make all your decisions in advance before you leave the door.
Also, the internet can be addictive, and surfing is still enough of a novelty that even people who aren’t actively seeking out a purchase may casually look for websites related to their product of interest. If I was toying with the idea of buying a new TV, say, I would probably while away some of my idle time comparison shopping online. The more I learned about my wish-product, the closer I would get to diving in and buying.
So, your job as a small business owner is to make you have a internet presence that can easily be found by shoppers. What have you done this week to add to your online profile…?