The Profile of the Online Consumer

When we talk about digital marketing and consumers, a question that pops up on the mind of any person connected to marketing and businesses is: ‘Who is the online consumer?’.
I have heard many entrepreneurs and professionals saying they would not create a digital marketing strategy for their brand or product because their consumers had a lower income, and those people are not connected to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today, with different degrees of influence, the Internet hits all cultural groups, nations and social-economic profiles. There is not a niche or a social group that is not, in a higher or lower degree, influenced by the communication and relationship generated by the Internet.

Of course, that, depending on your target and the geographical region where your company operates, there will be a specific type of usage. Each country and social group use digital technologies in a distinct form, and it is critical that you know those differences when building your digital marketing strategy.

Luckily there are many types of research and studies about the access to the Internet and usage of mobiles, published by several companies and organizations, that allow us to trace a specific profile for your online consumer.

Internet for Everyone

The fact is that several factors contributed to the Internet achieving such a deep root in our society, to the point we can affirm it is not about defining ‘if your consumer is connected, but how, when and where your consumer connects.

The great depth of the Internet initiates itself with the significant expansion of communication infrastructure around the world. Communication companies have installed, throughout the decades, a fantastic foundation of optical-fiber, cables, satellites and radios to supply the ever-growing demand worldwide. Because the protocols used by the Internet are very useful to several media, like phone companies, TV, press and radio, this structure naturally took Internet connection to all corners of the planet.

There was a price drop in equipment, associated with the infrastructure expansion, such as computers and laptops, and the expansion of credit, which allowed computer acquisition in several social-economic groups. If that wasn’t as occurrent in lower income families, the ease of collective access premises (with a different name in each country, like cyber café) allowed the easy access even for those who did not own a computer.
After the proliferation of so-called mobile technologies, with smartphones and tablets of all kinds, sizes, and prices, allowed that the Internet left the exclusivity of computers and laptops, and reached – literally – the pocket or the purse of the consumer. In many countries, access to the Internet through mobile devices now is higher than via computer.

Therefore, the organic evolution of smart TVs, consoles and access devices transformed the living room into another window for the Internet and completely broke through the last place in our houses that remained disconnected.

All of those factors contributed so Internet access became universal. But apparently, only the access does not justify the massive amount of time people nowadays spend online. The decisive factor was the beginning of the start-up phenomenon, small companies that are born every day with new ideas of products and services for the web, and they quickly make it available online to the public.

This massive amount of small companies that with time might become huge like Pinterest or DropBox has created a universe of services and products to consumer availability, usually free of charge, deviating their attention from traditional media to the Internet.
Social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and all communication apps like Skype and WhatsApp also have a significant piece of the influence on Internet usage, because they allow consumer’s expansion beyond traditional borders. In the same way, social media like YouTube and Instagram change the way we create and consume videos and photos in our daily life.

Finally, search engines – with a focus on Google and Google Maps -, have created a new way of finding what we want and allow the Internet to grow from an entertainment or relationship option to become a daily need in our personal and professional activities.

All the factors mentioned helped to change forever the way we look for a restaurant or plan a trip. The consumer definitely changed his buying behavior, and now has a full arsenal of search, comparison, analysis, and decision tools that influence your business directly, and may define the difference between the success or the failure of a product or a service.