What do People Want Online? It's not what you think it is
What people want online is a question
guerrillas ask themselves a lot. Whether it's for fun or work or something
else, understanding a consumer's motives once he or she logs on is a necessity.
But the experts don't seem to agree on what people want.
Some folks see the web as a vast, new field for advertising messages, assuming
that while people may want to do something else, if we can entice them with
flash, we can sort of trick them into paying attention to our products and
Guess what. That's not gonna happen.
Other folks seem to subscribe to the notion that people online are looking
for entertainment on the Internet, and therefore they construct messages
aimed at persuading while playing. And, in other cases, the time-honored
direct-response model wins out: Grab people when you can, get 'em to take
an action, and then market, market, market. The answer may be that the consumer
has and wants a lot more control than we give him/her credit for.
Today, webmeisters are in control. Sort of. In a perfect cyberworld, people
will be in control. Sort of.
Two recent studies shed light upon this dilemma. One was conducted by Zatso.
The other was conducted by the Pew Research Center. Zatso and Pew. (Those
guys didn't spend much time reading "how-to-name-your-company" books, I guess.)
Still, both of their studies illuminated the answer as to what people want
to do online.
The answer, as most answers, is very utilitarian: People want to accomplish
something online. They're not aimless surfers hoping to discover a cybertreasure.
Instead, the average Net user turns out to be a goal-oriented person interested
in finding information and communicating with others -- in doing something
he or she set out to do.
Look at the Zatso study. "A View of the 21st Century News Consumer" looked
at people's news reading habits on the web. It revealed that reading and
getting news was the most popular online activity after email. The guerrilla
thinks, "That means email is number one. How might I capitalize on that?"
One out of three respondents reported that they read news online every day,
with their interests expanding geographically -- local news was of the most
interest, U.S. news the least.
Personalization was seen as a benefit, too. Seventy-five percent of respondents
said that they wanted news on demand and nearly two out of three wanted
personalized news. The subjects surveyed liked the idea that they, not some
media outlet, controlled the news they saw. They feel they're better equipped
to select what they want to see than a professional editor. Again, control
seems to be the issue. Again, guerrillas think of ways to market by putting
the prospect in control.
The Pew Research Center study revealed that regular net users were more connected
with their friends and family than those who didn't use the Internet on a
Almost two-thirds of the 3,500 respondents said they felt that email brought
them closer to family and friends -- significant when combined with the fact
that 91% of them used email on a regular basis. That's 91%. It took VCRs
25 years to achieve such market penetration.
What did people in this study seem to be doing online when they weren't doing
email? Half were going online regularly to purchase products and services,
and nearly 75 percent were going online to search for information about their
hobbies or purchases they were planning to make. Sixty-four percent of
respondents visited travel sites, and 62 percent visited weather-related
sites. Over half did educational research, and 54 percent were hunting for
data about health and medicine.
A surprising 47 percent regularly visited government web sites, and 38 percent
researched job opportunities. Instant messaging was used by 45 percent of
these users, and a third of them played games online. Even with all the hype
in the media, only 12 percent said they traded stocks online.
What does this mean to e-marketers? It means that if you're constructing
a site for goal-oriented consumers, you'd better make sure you can help
facilitate their seeking. Rather than focus on entertainment, flash, and
useless splash screens, the most effective sites are those that help people
get the information they want when they need it. Straightforward data,
information that invites comparison, and straight talk are going to win the
A client buddy of mine showed me his website which heralds his retail location
and attempts to sell nothing online. He said it has been the biggest moneymaker
in the history of his 35-year-old company. Then he apologized for its lack
of glitter and special effects. He asked how his site could be so successful
even though it lacked anything to add razzmatazz and dipsydazzle.
Now, you know the answer.
About the Author:
Jay Conrad Levinson is probably the most respected marketer in the world.
He is the inventor of "Guerrilla Marketing" and is responsible for some of
the most outrageous marketing campaigns in history -- including the "Marlboro
Man" -- the most successful ad campaign in history. In his latest book,
Your Internet Marketing on Steroids" Jay reveals how you can use marketing
steroids legally to make your business insanely profitable.