1. Long-term rise in educational attainment.
Over the past four decades, an increasing number of Americans have completed high school and college. In 2013, 24 percent of adult Americans (25+) had four-year college degrees, compared to 11 percent in 2011. And the Census projects that these numbers will continue to rise among all ethnic and racial groups well into the next century. SCAN data on values related to the acceptance of technology suggest that the more educated our population, the better the outlook for use of the Internet in all ways—from information gathering to entertainment to commerce; currently, the people most attracted to the Internet are college educated.It is vital for Internet marketers to recognize that educational status defines the receptive consumer. The values and attitudes of this segment are unique and must be factored into any marketing effort.2. Increasing acceptance of technology as a problem solver.
The key values trend that gives impetus to greater use of the Internet, including transactions and shopping, among better-educated Americans is the belief that “technology solves more problems than it creates.” Indeed, educated consumers increasingly believe this, despite growing sophistication about both the up- and downsides of the new consumer technologies.
The 1980s’ giddy fascination, especially among upscale men, with the gadgets of telecommunications technology has sobered with discussions of benefits blended with observations about “always being on call and at work” thanks to laptops and cellular phones. Awareness of privacy issues and the singular concern about exposure of children to pornography and predators on the Internet (given the massive trend in the country toward child) are also evident.
However, educated consumers still see the benefits of technology outweighing the drawbacks. On the assumption that privacy and safety will be ensured, they embrace the Internet as a consumer problem solver. It is the direction of the future for better-educated consumers.
The success of e-commerce rests with keeping the underlying social value of “benefits outweighing the drawbacks” in place by addressing privacy and safety concerns and constant reinforcement of problem-solving capabilities.
This will be one of the most potent long-term consumer trends of the next century, especially among the better educated, upscale consumers so vital to the success of e-commerce.
Nearly forty years of the pursuit of “having and doing it all,” from careers to material acquisition to quality-of-life experiences to family and children for both men and women, has left a generation exhausted, overloaded, time constrained, and feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The fundamental baby boomer goal for the next decade is downshifting—setting priorities, jettisoning the unnecessary or unpleasant, avoiding hassle, and freeing up time to concentrate on the important stuff: family, health, and well-being, and as discussed below, fun.
The Internet in all its functions, including e-commerce, is seen by better-educated baby boomers as a perfect conduit for simplification of information gathering and shopping. Much of the perceived problem solving attributed to technology derives from this view.
“Freeing up time” and “reducing hassle and stress” are at the
top of the list of what marketers must deliver to find success on the Internet.
Consumers see traditional ways of doing transactions and shopping as highly stressful and hassled because they involve dealing with people who are rude, uninformed, and disrespectful.
The design of Internet marketing must communicate respect for the consumers’ time and respect of them as intelligent people. Marketers must take every step to ensure that this new medium is as hassle free and stress reducing as possible in order to win with consumers.
4. Preference for a home-based lifestyle combined with only pleasant and safe outings. Several factors support a long-term,home-based approach to lifestyle. The simplification trend noted above is first among equals in creating a consumer view that quality of life is best achieved within the home. Next, the dramatic return of family and child orientation as a central baby boomer focus, and the widely accepted belief that home is where the family is. And finally, there is the extraordinary fear of societal threats—crime, germs, pollution—that one may encounter outside in such settings as supermarkets, department stores, and malls.
The Internet and e-commerce are central engines for facilitating a home-based lifestyle in which the only reasons to go outside are to have fun with the family and friends and to engage in healthful sports activities.
We can therefore add the facilitation of a home-based lifestyle to the list of benefits delivered by technology.
5. Passionate pursuit of leisure and entertainment.
Just as better-educated consumers are increasingly shifting attention to family, they are also shifting their focus from work and career (which have proven to be less rewarding and not the source of satisfaction that they had hoped they would be) to leisure and pleasure.
Better-educated consumers are also expanding the definition of leisure. First, it must be productive either in the sense of physical fitness sports or in the sense of accomplishing something, such as learning or increasing one’s cultivation. But it must also be fun and entertaining. Indeed, the overarching trend emerging as a result is that all activities in life must have a leisure component in the sense of being entertaining, enriching, or just plain fun. One of the long term trends for the next century is the moving away from compartmentalization and achieving a blend of all aspects of life; the relevant blend here is shopping and transactions blended with fun, entertainment, and cultivation.
Internet marketers must take the need for these environmental factors into their designs—just delivering on the functionality of simplification and home-based, while critical, is not sufficient. E-commerce must also be an “experience.”
6. Making connections.
The thirty-year trend toward focus on self and defining individuality as a set of “my needs” is rapidly drawing to a close. It will be replaced with a new conception of individualism based on “my network”—the friends, family, and others that I share values and views with define who I am and what makes me unique. The new trend will be about reaching out to others with mutual interests and shared values. The Internet facilitates the creation of affinity groups worldwide and vastly expands the connections one can make.
Marketers have the opportunity to establish the sense of family with customers that leads to loyalty to and advocacy for products or services. In creating their sites, marketers must take into account the subtle benefit of belonging and connectedness that can be delivered to the consumer, and take steps to demonstrate and actively pursue this understanding.
The final relevant trend builds from rising education levels but also reflects a revolution in social values when it comes to the marketplace. The past twenty years of American social history have seen a rise of distrust and cynicism about all of its institutions, including the marketplace—manufacturers, service providers, and most especially retailers. The traditional hierarchies are gone, and the consumer has taken over the relationship in the marketplace.
The social-values trends underlying this shift in who is in charge are the rising belief in self-reliance, the willingness to bypass traditional distribution channels to get value and better treatment, doing one’s homework, confidence in one’s self as an expert, and a desire to go straight to the “brand” one has confidence in, cutting out the middleman.
Clearly, these values support the future potential in e-commerce and use of the Internet for information gathering and shopping. They are critical for anyone who is doing business on the Internet to take into consideration.
Consumers will come to marketers on the Internet on their own terms, which include highest quality and greatest value; excellent treatment and respect, as defined by simplification in all aspects of the process; plentiful information to make informed choices; clear, differentiated, and strongly imaged branding; enough choices to create a sense of control, but not so many as to create a sense of work; and clear signals of understanding that the customer is charge.
Taken together, these seven trends suggest the following for marketers looking to the Internet for success:
Know your target—the audience is, and will be for a long time to come, the better-educated consumer.
Be vigilant—keep those educated consumers believing that the benefits outweigh the problems (and the benefits are home-based and hassle free) and make sure that privacy and safety don’t become problems.
Make it simple—when e-commerce delivers stress reduction, it wins; if it winds up a hassle in its own right, the consumer will walk away.
Recognize that using the Internet, even for e-commerce, is about more than “getting something done”; the Internet offers educated consumers a medium for making connections and marketers should leverage the unique ability of the Internet to facilitate connectedness and affinity.
Functionality isn’t enough—delivering hassle-free, home based information gathering and transactions is the price of admission; the home run is, well, a home run; make it fun, entertaining, an experience.
Accept the notion that the Internet consumer is “the boss” and play by his or her rules—highest quality and great value; excellent treatment and respect; simplification in all aspects of the process; plentiful information to make informed choices; clear, differentiated and strongly imaged branding; enough choice to create a sense of control, but not so many choices as to create a sense of work.
Success on the Internet will come from never forgetting it’s the consumer who is in charge and setting the terms for doing business with you; knowing their terms and respecting them is the key to winning.
Pammi Thakran, a Professional blogger and Content Writer associated with Yoginet web solution India, a professional Web design and Development Company based in New Delhi, India. Our Services are offered via experienced team who are expertise with web designing and development. We are catering needs of both India and International clients since 2001.