Think back to the last time you searched for a local product or service. Did you grab a newspaper and scan the ads, turn on your radio and wait for a commercial, or flip through the latest phone directory? Probably not.
Chances are you went online to facilitate your search. And you’re not alone.
According to a 2010 study from media consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, 97 percent of consumers now use online media when researching products or services in their local area. Among the survey respondents, a whopping 90 percent indicated they use search engines. In just the past three years, there has been such a massive shift in consumer behavior that if your business isn’t discoverable in online search, you are losing opportunities daily.
Search is now the number two online activity across all age groups, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Eighty-seven percent of all online adults use search, an activity that is second only to e-mail. And contrary to a common misconception on the demographics of online searchers, fully 87 percent of those aged 56 to 64 (“Older Boomers”) conduct online searches. In the younger segments it’s even higher.
This is certainly great news for online retailers. What isn’t quite so obvious is that it’s also incredible for traditional “off-line” businesses and small, local businesses. Online search enables you to tightly target your ideal consumer, making your marketing investment more efficient than ever before. You can also compete more effectively against larger competitors.
According to Google, 20 percent of search queries are specifically local. Consumers aren’t just typing “home theater,” “B&W speakers,” or “lighting controls” in their searches. They’re searching terms like “home theater design Atlanta” or “Lutron automation dealer San Diego.” Half of these localized search results also show a map to potentially give your business even more exposure. So not only can Google, Bing or Yahoo! inform a local consumer that you carry the product they’re interested in, these search engines can quickly point them right to your doorstep.
Does this mean that traditional forms of advertising like print, direct mail, and broadcasting are dead? Not necessarily, but it’s critical to get your advertising into the places where your target consumers are spending their time. More than ever, that means online. The research, as well as your own personal experience, demonstrates that the shift has already happened, and not being online is akin to leaving your biggest territory for your competitor.
In 2010, online ad spending exceeded that of traditional newspapers for the first time in history, with newspaper ad spending having been halved since 2006. According to Forrester Research, the amount of time people spend on the Internet has increased 121 percent over that same period, while TV, newspaper, magazine and radio consumption have all decreased.
And last year, despite a sputtering national economy, online ad spending rose nearly 14 percent, outshining all other major media types.
Taking all of this into account, it just makes sense to devote some marketing resources to the online realm. And you’ll then have the benefit of tracking the results of your marketing, giving you a whole new tool for growing your business. That’s a topic I’ll address in a future blog post.
Brendan Morrissey is CEO of Netsertive.