The sight of Crayola crayons stacked high to fly at the local mass merchant brought these back-to-school thoughts to mind.
Colleague Dr. Jeff Loucks and I surveyed US consumers this past spring regarding their confidence – or lack thereof – in using consumer electronics devices and content services.
No surprise that we found a cluster of early adopters, a male-dominant group of device-loving consumers of all forms of bits and bytes.
What was surprising – at least at first glance – was the discovery of a group that we might call “learners” that is more than twice the size of the early adoption group.
The “learner” group was no stranger to technology: No Luddites among the Learners. What distinguished them was that they didn’t know how to do all the things they might like to do and wanted to learn more.
This suggests they would respond with enthusiasm – and more importantly, with Visa and MasterCards – to the brand that was willing to invest in their education.
Consider for a moment: Pew Research estimates that 21% of American adults search online for product information on a typical day. That’s about 49 million persons. Consider that comScore estimated that last year there were six million Internet searches for dining recipes – every day.
Combine this research with the Pew and comScore numbers, and a sharp-edged hypothesis begins to emerge:
In the past, back to school shopping conjures images of moms, minivans and moving from store to store with shopping lists. Today’s back to school shopping trips for families are more of a logistics exercise with moms doing online research and checking on social media to find the best deals before they set foot in the first store.
This is backed by recent researching showing the rise of the “Connected Mom”.
In Deloitte’s 2011 Back to School Survey, research shows that 64% of respondents with smart phones plan to use them for back-to-school, and 43% will download discounts, coupons and sales information. Social media is also playing a role with 35% of respondents using social networking sites to assist in shopping.
I read an article recently discussing the advantages and disadvantages of smartcards. I know that there have been quite a few distributed, but it seems to me that the adoption rate and the length of time they have been available are a bit out of sync. I would have thought that we would have many more smartcards, used in more places, being as they werer actually invented in 1968, and were widely used in French pay phones starting in 1983.
Thinking about the intersection of the internet and the store, the mash-up of retail’s virtual and physical worlds.
And wondering if something as out-of-sight as the industry’s performance metrics will get in the way of progress.
When e-commerce entered retail life in the mid-1990s, it was understandably regarded as just another channel of distribution – indeed, as just one more store. With this perspective, the key performance metric was (and generally remains to this day) site revenue. Conversion, another key metric, was defined as site transactions as a percent of site visits.
This still makes sense – but at a narrow, misleading level, because e-commerce no longer defines the connected world for retail.
In this age of Google and Facebook, the primary value today of the Internet to the shopper – and to your brand – is less about transactions, and more about search. On the PC, on the tablet, on the mobile devices, amidst the aisles.
The Internet – and the search function of the ever-mobile Internet – is now the front door of the entire brand.
In this past January, according to comScore, Americans conducted 18.6 billion total search queries (roughly 11.9 billion on Google alone). That’s 81 searches per month for every one of the 231 million Americans said to be accessing the Internet on a regular basis. Last year, the search market grew by 12% – the sum of a 4% increase in searchers, and 8% growth in searches per person.
According to comScore’s February 2011 study, 58% of US consumers begin their shopping journey with search. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2010 research, a typical day finds 21% of American adults searching for product information – up from 15% just three years earlier.
Given that online transactions total just 7% of US annual retail revenue, much of that online search opens the door to a store-based transaction.
Which suggests a new set of metrics to complement the old.