While consumers expect to decrease their overall spending this year, according to a recent survey, the decline will take place more offline than online. The study of more than 1,200 Internet users was commissioned by LinkShare, a pay per action marketing network, and conducted by JupiterResearch.
The study also found that four out of five consumers surveyed believe the U.S. is mired in an economic recession, but the Internet may offer relief to some shoppers. Recommendations from the study include encouraging online sellers to engage wary online shoppers through ongoing promotions, and seeking out, "Influencers," through multiple online touch points.
Researchers suggest that online retailers can adjust to the weakening economy by focusing on deepening relationships with existing customers. These customers are vulnerable to promotional influences. The report also notes that those consumers tend to influence the purchases of others.
"In a challenging economy, when people are spending less and scrutinizing each purchase they make, every online retailer must work to distribute their promotions widely, in the most effective way," said Jonathan Levine, co-president of LinkShare.
A powerful means of establishing that relationship and driving repeat business, according to the study, is through ongoing promotions, which also help to deepen customer relationships and keep customers loyal. "In light of this study, we advise ecommerce marketers to broaden their marketing partnerships online and embrace user generated reviews," added Yasuhisa Iida, also co-president of LinkShare. "Marketers who encourage customers to share their positive shopping experiences with peers will end up benefiting."
The survey distinguished two key segments of buyers. One segment is, "the influencers," who are considered a key shopper segment because they influence their friends in purchase decisions, spend more money online than the average consumer and plan to increase their annual online spending more, on average, in comparison with all online shoppers.
Advertisers that want to reach influencers, become part of their purchase consideration and benefit from their advocacy should consider stepping up their outreach to this segment, according to the study.
The other key segment is, "the engaged," shopper, a group that comprises 50 percent of online shoppers. While this group claims they will stick with their current brands and stores, half are still willing to experiment with new retailers in order to get the best price on a product.
Patti Freeman Evans, research director of JupiterResearch, unveiled the survey results during a LinkShare symposium in New York City in mid summer. Following are some of the study's additional findings about U.S. online shoppers:
- On average, web consumers are predicting their offline spending will drop more than online spending. Offline spending is predicted to drop 6.3 percent versus a smaller drop of 4.2 percent online.
- Most online consumers, 81 percent of those surveyed, believe they are facing an economic recession.
- Because of the struggling economy, more than half (56 percent) of the Influencers plan to do more product and pricing research online to ensure the best price.
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