The behavior of the online consumer

An online consumer is the same person, alive and breathing, that is in real life. Depending on their generation and profile, however, as we saw previously, they can benefit from one media more than the other. They might prefer the evening news for their evening information, but use their phones to read the news in the morning, and their computer to look for more detailed information about it. Or they might inform themselves through social media only, watch series on NetFlix, and listen to music with Spotify like most digital natives already do.

As I have said before, in this century the media serves the consumer and not the other way around. Each media spreads their content as best as they can, and the consumer chooses what and how to use it.

However, regardless of the frequency and intensity of Internet usage, when they are connected, when they are online, their behavior changes from the daily lives because of the limitation and restrictions of time, space or money.

What I Am Here To Do

First, think that, as it happens to the cinema concerning TV, the consumer is not online to do ‘the same thing’ they did elsewhere. Of course they can also watch a TV show or read the news on their computer, but still, they are in a different environment, like it happens when we go to the movies and behave differently than when we watch the same film in our living room TV.

Second, it is necessary to remember what the consumer is doing connected to the computer or mobile. Like we saw before, consumers have changed the Internet to attend their needs. Basically, consumers created a new environment, that fills the gaps of different media.

The consumer, when connected to the Internet, has basically three wishes, three needs that are like a lighthouse when it comes to an understanding of their behavior. Those three needs, created and satisfied by the consumer, are information, entertainment, and relationship.

The Consumer Seeks Information

In the quest for information, the consumer knows by experience that the Internet is an excellent stream of useful content, and that search engines are the way in. Like that, every time they need information, the consumer elaborates a question, and researches through a search engine, using the results to inform and instruct themselves.

Think about what you do when you need to find a language school, a restaurant, or organize a trip to a city. What do you do to find information about new technology, news you’ve heard on the radio, or understand better a theme that is being brought up in work? What if you have some needs in your home, and you need to find a product or service to fulfill it? It is very likely that in most of those cases you used a search engine to obtain the information you needed.

Or when you decide to cook a new recipe. Where do you find a method? Probably looking in a search engine, sometimes Google, searching a recipe by its main ingredient, or even YouTube, searching for a tutorial that shows how to cook the dish in detail.

People are always looking for information about the most varied themes, and search engines have become an indispensable tool in this process. Even with social media, internal searching tools like on Facebook and LinkedIn are being used more and more. The same happens to YouTube, where the search for tutorials and video information is more and more frequent.
With time, this constant search for information takes knowledge to useful places, that transcend search engines and attend specific interests. That’s the case with Wikipedia, a vast collaborative encyclopedia, with an infinity of entries in several languages.

When we find information on a website that looks like it has loads of useful content in a specific theme, we see directly in it when we need information in a particular area. Those environments, with time, create fans, and their brands become associated with the theme. If a high volume of consumers associates a website to a specific niche, it becomes a synonym with that theme, as Wikipedia did with the encyclopedia.

With the proliferation of apps, this phenomenon has intensified itself. When I’m looking for information and find it regularly on the same source, and if that source has an app, we end up installing it and becoming even more faithful to that digital media. This happens a lot with digital versions of newspapers, but also with different sectors like travel (with Booking.com) or fashion (with Instagram).

The Internet has created a virtuous cycle, the great offer of content attracts consumers that fulfill their information needs, drawing even more content producers that attract other niches, attracting the consumer even more.

The Consumer Wants Entertainment

In the quest for entertainment, the consumer accesses videos, animations, games, cartoon and joke websites; beyond dozens of other entertainment options online. In the entertainment business, word of mouth seems to be the most efficient propagation, and the quality of the creative environment a fundamental factor to consumer fidelity.

In the beginning, the Internet offered some game websites and humor content to consumers, and for a long time, they created legions of fans, like Club Penguin and World of Warcraft. After that came audio, with podcasts, music and online radios, that brought a new option of entertainment.

The rise on the speed of access and the proliferation of devices for capture and edition of video allowed to incorporate image to online entertainment. Today several producers, from individual amateurs to large studios, produce series and shows in the video, all exclusive to the Internet. YouTube has become, among other video websites, a large TV broadcaster.

The most important in this process is that today entertainment is not an exclusivity of great producers or famous artists. On the Internet, it acquired the same creative potential of blogs, allowing anyone with a specific talent to produce entertainment content.

Beyond that, mobile technology changes the consumer’s habits. If before we would buy an iPod to consume digital music, now we have music streaming directly on our phones, using apps such as Spotify. In the same way, one can watch series, documentaries, and movies straight on our smartphones or tablets, with apps like YouTube or NetFlix.

Again a virtuous cycle was created on the Internet, where consumer’s entertainment need – before only fulfilled by TV, cinema, radio or concerts – went to being performed in a global scale, and with tremendous diversity, by the Internet. In this field, the web has been assuming a significant role, and with time, more and more consumers are attracted by online entertainment.

The consumer establishes relationships

In the search for relationships and interactions, the consumer found on the Internet a very fertile ground. From the development of instant communication and social media, people initiated a growing process of online relationship. Apps like Messenger and WhatsApp and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook are the more evident examples and broadly utilized on those two modalities.

Instant communication is a phenomenon that changed the conversation in this century, especially for the new generations that use Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp or Google Hangouts like the previous generations used the telephone. Email has been losing its primary role and space, and apps with integrated functionalities, like instant messages, video, and voice, represent a consolidated trend.

Social networks complement this radical change in the way we communicate, and along blogs and other collaborative websites, create the phenomenon of so-called social media. They integrate profiles and communities, building for the consumer a pleasant feeling of intimacy with everyone. They become a cultural change in constant movement and, because they are fundamentally collaborative, they are in continuous evolution.

The Internet has become the primary channel of communication and the relationship of individuals, and with the evolution of mobile devices, permitted to extend this phenomenon to the streets. Today we are all connected and relating to each other, 24/7, anywhere.

Unlike information and entertainment, where the consumer is always an active agent in the process when it comes to the relationship the consumer becomes a passive agent because many times we find each other compelled to interact when a friend or acquaintance sends us a message or uploads a picture.

By supplying the relationship of relationship to the consumer, the Internet has created a type of glue that forms the consumer’s necessity of always being connected and updated.