More marketers are issuing surveys to examine consumer behavior trends. With a shift toward retail marketing online, study results and findings emerge almost daily. Among online stores, there has been a greater shift toward Search Engine Optimization or SEO and this has also been growing as a marketer’s tool at “selling” marketing to prospective clients.
Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area, according to BIA/Kelsey’s User View Wave VII, an ongoing consumer tracking study conducted with research partner ConStat. Among consumers surveyed, 90 percent use search engines, 48 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, 24 percent use vertical sites, and 42 percent use comparison-shopping sites.
According to the study, on average, consumers are using 7.9 different media sources when shopping for products or services in their local area, up from 6.5 sources in 2009 and 5.8 in 2008, revealing a noteworthy increase in audience fragmentation. Additional findings include:
58 percent of survey respondents reported use of an online coupon when shopping for products or services in their local area in the past year.
19 percent of respondents report making an appointment online in the past six months for a service other than a restaurant reservation (e.g., business appointment, health-care appointment, auto service or personal service such as a beauty shop).
As a research tool, surveys are the least representative at predicting or even reporting trends. In many cases, questionnaires may be sent to a target of about one million people. Of all those sent, only a small percentage may be returned – usually under 10 percent. The summation of the data, then, is culled only from those that would answer a survey. Few marketing surveys are known to place confounding questions in their surveys. That may skew results from respondents to a more favorable result.
Indeed, the Kelsey Group released this study as they plan to have Marketplaces 2010, a Kelsey Group sponsored event, which takes place March 22-24 in San Diego. It focuses on the fast-growing opportunities in local vertical services, media and advertising.
It is true that more consumers are using sites like PriceGrabber and are reading consumer reviews on other websites. Many businesses are reaching out to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites as possible advertising areas. More online retailers and media are creating APPS for iPhone and Android cell phones.
The point is that online businesses are aggressively seizing opportunities to expand their spheres of exposure on the Internet through search engines. Many consumers learn from news media and online forums about what retailers do to gain exposure.
Knowledge is power. Consumers have more access to research over the Internet to help make decisions about their purchases. I considerably doubt that the consumer population is so savvy that 97% use search engines and other online opportunities prior to making purchases. This is more of a marketer’s gimmick to attract potential online sellers. A survey is only a picture and, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, this study may be a little skewed.
Nonetheless, more people are shopping online and more people are researching products online. It still is more speculation than fact to attempt determining the exact pattern of consumer behavior. Whoever has the real answer has that bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow.