Consumer Insight Key to Targeting Online Buyers

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Know your consumer. It's a basic principle that applies just as much to the Internet as it has to every other medium. Successful e-business will be based on targeted marketing strategies developed through in-depth consumer understanding, attracting consumers based on what's relevant to them.

This year, more than 4.5 million households responded to an ICOM survey through the mail and reported their lifestyles, hobbies, interests, demographics, purchase behaviors and intentions, including computer use, Internet service and online buying from home. With this data, a profile of online buyers was created, providing rich insight for marketing strategy.

Overwhelmingly, the analysis showed that behaviors and lifestyle insights are key to targeting online buyers. It's not good enough to simply target consumers who have Internet access, hoping to convert them from browsers to buyers. Although online purchasing is growing rapidly, it's only by a select segment of the population - early adopters with specific behaviors and interests. These consumers are self-selecting what they experience on the Internet, so it's critical to strategically target your e-commerce initiatives based on the relevant behaviors and interests of individual consumers.

When profiling online buyers, three key learnings emerge:

1. Online buyers are heavy mail-order buyers. While this indicates a strategy to convert mail-order buyers to online buyers, be careful. Not all heavy mail-order buyers are high-potential candidates for online buying. With only 26 percent of the population linked to an Internet service and only 9.4 percent buying online, it's still crucial to identify the specific consumer segment that are heavy mail-order buyers and are online.

2. Browsers vs. buyers - don't rely on demographics. Few differences between online buyers and browsers exist. Across almost 100 demographic variables, there were only two meaningful differences: Online buyers are less likely to be seniors and more likely to be affluent, with households incomes over $75,000.

Across the remaining 98 demographic variables, no differences exist; so it is clear that demographic information alone doesn't provide enough insight to develop an effective marketing strategy.

3. Target online buyers based on their behaviors and lifestyles. Online buyers tend to be more active and involved, with a variety of interests versus the general survey population. It's not surprising that these high involvement consumers would be early adopters of online buying. Interests in a variety of areas such as reading, music, sports and hobbies is good news for marketers, presenting potential for a variety of e-commerce products and services.

It's no wonder books and music have been at the forefront of e-commerce.

When it comes to reading, online buyers are more likely to have interest in reading overall, indexing higher than the general survey population in virtually all of the 22 reading categories measured. In many categories such as computer books and magazines, art books and magazines, science fiction and children's magazines, the overdevelopment was significant and ranged from 52 percent to 221 percent. Online buyers are more likely to enjoy a variety of music, including classical, new age and hard rock.

E-commerce opportunities also can be found through online buyer interests in hobbies and sports. They are significantly more likely than the general population to participate in a range of sports, including golf, soccer, hockey and sailing or yachting. They also are more likely to actively pursue hobbies such as home study courses, self improvement courses, theater or performing arts and wine appreciation with overdevelopment in these hobbies ranging from 50 percent to 94 percent.

The key for each marketer is to find those consumers with specific behaviors and interests in the product or service you offer and strategically target your e-commerce initiatives based on what's relevant to them.

Not all consumers are current or potential online buyers. Ultimately finding information that can provide individual consumer data on the three variables - mail-order buying behavior, Internet buying behavior and the consumer's interest in the product and service you provide - will be key.

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