Mouse potatoes growing market

Market research companies are coming up with a new vocabulary to describe groups forming among the millions of online consumers.

One of the latest groups, the ‘mouse potatoes’ are similar to ‘couch potatoes’ except they spend hours staring into a computer screen as opposed to a TV.

Mouse potatoes make up a significant part of the 5% to 10% of Internet users who actually purchase online.

Research has shown the mouse potato is quite different from traditional retail consumers.

Firstly, the mouse potato is considerably more loyal to his or her online supplier.

In five out of six product categories the mouse potato is more likely to repurchase online than the offline consumer.

For retailers considering going online this is good news. Your investment in an e-commerce facility will at least enjoy the benefit of considerably more re-purchases than a traditional retail outlet.

Research carried out by the NPD Group concluded “as the Internet empowers consumers with greater choice and more information, risk and rewards abound for retailers”.

In particular, the report concluded that consumer use of the Internet in the purchase process was rising quickly.

Over 30% of online consumers use the net for obtaining product information – even if they purchase offline.

For retailers the message is clear – unless they achieve some online presence they may not be considered by a significant section of their market.

For retailers, the rewards for making the move online may be worth the effort.

Apart from greater loyalty, on-line consumers are less price sensitive than traditional consumers.

Over forty percent of online buyers said convenience was their basis for choosing an online supplier. Only sixteen percent mentioned pricing as a key motivator.

For traditional offline consumers, forty one percent said good prices were important.

The research also indicated the online consumer will be easier and cheaper to service after the sale, as nearly 20% of online consumers use the net for post-sale support.

The research also indicated that travel, consumer electronics, financial services, books and music will see robust sales growth on the net.

In the medium term the report noted that “technology competency will separate winners from losers”, noting that “website technology (that facilitates) personalization, dynamic content and on-line ordering will let leaders lock in customers”.

In the longer term, the report suggests a “power shift (to) extend to consumer behavior and vertical industries” noting that “today’s technology only scratches the surface of efficient comparison-shopping and product search.

“The development of filters, agents, automated buying profiles, networked buying clubs and on-line auctions will bring greater price competition to the Internet.

“Merchants must be prepared to live up to “we will match any price” marketing guarantees”.

For Australian retailers thinking of going online the message is clear. Get in early while online customers are not too price sensitive, then use the technology to keep them coming back and lock them in for the future.

• Raphe Patmore is CEO of Inter-net consultancy Biz E Planet.

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