In Between the Numbers: The “Learner” Segment of Consumers: Should Retail Take an Education Class?

September 8, 2011 - 1 Comment

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:


A good number of potential buyers are looking for a lot more than comparative pricing information. They want to know why and when, and most of all, how.

 And –

 One of the best retail investments in protecting (even, God forbid, in hiking) margins might be in helping learners learn in a multitude of in-store and online ways.

 Potential buyers want to learn how to connect electronic devices, and use more of their features. Learn how to choose accessories and put great outfits together. Learn how to match ingredients with recipes. Match recipes with wines. Match wines with the stuff that gets the stains out of tablecloths.

 Funny thing: Most of that learning is available on the Internet. Very little of it is available in the big box or mall store.

 Memo to brick and mortar executives: It’s not just the tax structure that leads ‘em to shop online.

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  1. One the issues I find hampering people is all the misinformation that you can search for on these topics. It is not like how to restring a guitar, the variations of devices is vast and changing making the ability to get good quality pertinent learning even harder. The downside of the Interwebs is everyone has an opinion and is willing to express it for all to see , right or wrong.This isn’t just for consumer devices it applies to just about any area from medical to pets.
    weeding thru the information is frustrating, so having a place for customer in store at at home as a source of truth is a key differentiator. The challenge retailers will have is managing the content and keeping it current.