by Brendan Morrissey
I recently had the opportunity to attend two events that bridge the topics covered in my blog posts: online marketing and consumer electronics. While the SMX East online marketing conference in New York provided more insights into consumers’ online behavior, CEDIA EXPO 2011 in Indianapolis reflected current trends affecting the custom electronics industry.
At both events, I learned a lot by listening to industry experts, walking the floor, and chatting with both vendors and other attendees. I thought I’d share with you some of the major takeaways from each.
At SMX East, I saw evidence that reaffirms the strong ties between online discovery and offline sales. A few statistics gleaned from the conference (let’s call them the three 90’s of local business):
• Over 90 percent of retail sales still occur offline. Sure, Amazon and other e-commerce businesses have made a mint by selling wares through the Internet, but most consumers still conduct retail purchases in person at a physical location.
• Over 90 percent of offline sales occur within 50 miles of a person’s home. Your market is truly local and there are many ways to target those consumers as they view content online.
• As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, over 90 percent of shoppers for local products and services will research online before buying locally offline.
While online marketing is by no means a silver bullet that will change your business overnight, two experiences at CEDIA illustrated to me its power and effectiveness when done right. First, a custom integrator/retailer in a mid-sized city told me that fully 50 percent of his new business originated from his online campaigns. A major audio products vendor also shared that when he measured dealers that were participating in the vendor’s cooperative online advertising program vs. non-participants, the active participants averaged twice the sales growth in his product line from the previous year.
Another takeaway from SMX East is that online discovery works best when it is easy for consumers to find you or your category. If you’re not visible online instantly and often, there are ten competitors one click away. This means it’s critical to leverage both search and display (banner) advertising, local listings such as Google Places, and other methods that geo-target people in your area who are seeking businesses like yours.
I also learned how online marketing can work to “close the loop” on all of your marketing extensions. Most consumers today who see an ad on TV, hear it on the radio, see it in print or receive a direct mail piece, will turn to the Web for more information. They want to research the company or product, check out the competition, peruse ratings or find the nearest location. However, they don’t always type in the correct URL or exact company name in a search. Often, consumers search general terms or keywords that are “close enough” for them to think they’ve found the right website, but may have landed on a competitor’s site instead.
As an example, let’s say a consumer hears a radio ad for MidWest Home Theater in Milwaukee when driving in their car. They get home, turn on their laptop, and search for terms like “home theater Milwaukee,” “Milwaukee home theater projector,” etc. If MidWest isn’t actively targeting a wide variety of relevant terms and categories, it will have lost twice since it paid for the radio ad that raised awareness but then ironically drove a consumer to someone else’s business.
My experience at CEDIA provided a good view of what’s happening on the national scene. Attendance was slightly down this year, mirroring the national economy and the need for careful decisions and prudent marketing expenditures.
However, I did notice some signs of improvement. I learned from many dealers that they are seeing evidence of website visitor growth to their sites over the previous 90-100 days. That’s a potential indicator of both dealer and end-user behavior trending more positively.
We’ve also seen many increases in our clients’ marketing budgets over the past six months. Those making a commitment to strengthening their online presence now are strongly positioned as consumer spending returns to previous levels. Dealers with extra money on their hands have difficult decisions to make: Do they remodel their showroom? Open another location? Hire another salesperson? Whatever they decide, online marketing should definitely be in the mix, as it can provide the best return on investment.
I also wanted to note that there was a lot of curiosity about and interest in social media at CEDIA. Many dealers want to engage social media but just don’t know how to go about doing it. I’ll provide some suggestions in my next blog post.
I’ll leave you with this interesting fact: every day there are nearly one billion searches occurring online in the United States. Not every consumer is a potential customer, but you’ve got to be prepared to capture the ones who are. Remember, your competition is not a 15-minute drive away anymore – they’re just a half-second click away.
Brendan Morrissey is CEO of Netsertive.