Online Market Research: Understanding the Modern "Always On" Consumer

By Radhika Basuthakur
Online Market Research: Understanding the Modern "Always On" Consumer


When Internet marketing first came along, it completely changed the game and forced marketers to think about their audiences both online and offline. But, we have come a long, long way since then. The Internet is no longer something we connect to for 15 minutes at the end of the day to check a few emails. We’re connected all the time.

The proliferation of mobile phones has enabled 24/7 connectivity for the web. As consumers, this "always on" status greatly influences our purchase decisions. Traditional sources of information, such as the humble salesperson, have been removed from the equation.

Instead, consumers have adopted the Internet as their go-to source for data. As discussed previously in my article on affiliate marketing for mobile users, many customers are using their phones for research. Some customers are spending up to 15 hours on their phones, researching products, brands, and even a company's reputation — anything and everything that could influence a potential purchase.

According to February 2014 research about the usage of online channels by always-on consumers, 75 percent of those with multiple devices are actively using social networks, with news and magazine websites following a close second.

Chart for Always-On Data

Research by Experian has also identified four distinct types of always on consumers. Some interesting takeaways from this research include:

  • The Social Butterfly (female, usually between 18-34) is a power user of social media. She relies on social media for information about retail purchases.
  • She is likely to make a purchase based on a social media recommendation and is twice as likely to post an online review.
  • The Gamer (male, usually between 18-24) is less unlikely than any other group to use traditional media (i.e. television or radio). He doesn’t necessarily like seeing ads on phones but is 90 percent more likely than the average consumer to make a purchase after seeing such an ad.
  • The Everything Tech consumer (either male or female, 18-34) is addicted to technology and 60 percent of this demographic has purchased a product after seeing an online ad.

Peer recommendation is also very important to always-on consumers, particular the Everything Tech and Gamer demographics. The Everything Tech population is three times more likely to buy something if recommended by a friend.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

The data is interesting, yes. More importantly though, what does mean for marketers?

Know Your Consumer

Obviously, the very first thing marketers need to do is conduct some online market research. Figure out who your customers are and where and how they’re spending their time online. Are you a retailer with Social Butterflies for customers, or perhaps your customers are more of the Gamer variety?

Understanding your consumer and their “always on” behaviors is the first step to creating a strategy for how to market to them.

Always-On Marketing

If you have always-on consumers, you need always-on marketing. This means marketers need to stop obsessing over campaigns and focus their energies on the consumer experience instead.

According to research by Forrester for Responsys, marketers need to find ways to engage with their customers across various channels. Marketers need to adjust to this constant movement between devices and not the other way around. This means there is a need for more personalized, device- or channel-specific marketing.

Social Media is Tops

Social media has evolved into the go-to resource for research and sharing reviews and experiences. This is especially important if you have Social Butterflies for customers but is definitely not limited to this group alone.

Three-quarters of always-on consumers have a social network as their number one site. This includes a large chunk of YOUR customers. Naturally, this means it's important that customers see what you're marketing on social media.

Don’t just do social media. Engage, interact and have fun with your consumers. You will create brand loyalty and along the way also help customers while they’re doing their research.

Optimize Company Websites

In the chart above, it isn’t surprising to see company websites third on the list of sites visited by mobile consumers. It backs up claims that more customers are doing their research online and checking out company websites in the process. This could also mean a lot of your customers are shopping online.

As a marketer, it’s super important that you pay attention to your company website and optimize it for the customer experience. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What information are customers looking for?
  • Can they easily find it on the website?
  • Does my website adequately tell the company story?
  • Is my website following current best practices?

Mobile-Friendly Marketing

While you’re assessing your company website, it’s also important to consider whether your site is mobile-friendly. As you have seen from the data, always-on consumers are always on because they’re married to their devices. Is your website mobile-friendly?

Additionally, you must also ensure the rest of your marketing efforts are also suited to mobile. Content, social media, advertising — everything you put out there should appeal to a mobile user as well.

Relationship Building

The Forrester research mentioned above also places great value on the importance of building valuable customer relationships. According to Kyle Christensen of Responsys,

The great promise of marketing in the digital era — orchestrating individual experiences for customers, at scale — is something most companies talk about, but don’t actually do. Too many remain obsessed with using technology simply to acquire more and more customers — a strategy with increasingly higher costs and diminishing returns — instead of using it to build valuable and lasting customer relationships.

Marketing as you knew it is dead. The proof is in the pudding (errr…research): Your consumers are always on, always connected. This means you have to innovate and find ways to reach your message to them. Changes will not happen overnight, but get started now because your customer is already on the move — you have catching up to do!