While it is not reasonable to say that the Internet has caused your everyday storefront to become redundant, there is definitely a trend towards browsing for services online. Consider this – if you need to find the location of a good or service, how often do you turn to sites like White and Yellow Pages? What was that you said; you’re using your paper copies as book ends? Me too.
Tapping into the vast population of Internet users is vital to providing a well-rounded service. When surveyed, the majority of women said that they would be more inclined to use a store that had an online presence, regardless of whether they were planning to shop online or offline. What does this tell you? People invest a lot of their perception in technological advancement!
According to Stanford University research, in the past ten years Internet usage has soared from essentially 0 per cent to almost 60 per cent in the United States. These 90 million or so people spend an average of 3 hours per day browsing the web and using email. There is incredible scope to have this time used to encourage people to learn more about your particular organisation.
In not having your details on the Internet, you effectively miss out on three hours of every day when you could be reaching out to 90 million users. And worse than that, there is an entire generation that could – and have – been alienated by not providing a more technologically contemporary means of communication. Consider that many of the younger ‘Net users have actually grown up using email and instant messaging programs to speak to each other, and many have a tendency to shy away from the more traditional methods.
“I definitely notice if a store is not online,” Paula Harris, a mother of one, told me. “I like to shop online. I don’t have to deal with people everywhere, salespeople who won’t give up the hard sell and it all comes to my place without me doing anything – what could be better than that?” And it’s a fair consensus of the feelings of many women. The vast majority remarked that they see a company as being “less professional” if they’re without a web presence.
The future of Internet transactions is a fairly obvious one. 21st century people want convenience and ways to save time, and this will make the Internet more and more appealing to the busy lifestyles we tend to lead. Beyond the portals that already exist – information, banking and shopping, for the most part – exists a world where nigh everything can be done with the click of a mouse and the touch of a button.
“I would love to be able to book doctor’s appointments online, for example,” said Genevieve Liston, soon-to-be mother of three small children. “The day I can make my appointments online will be a very happy day indeed. I just don’t seem to have enough time in my day to get around to doing everything.
“I’m less likely to end up buying something or ordering something if I actually have to go out and get it. Between looking after my sons, keeping the house in order, working part-time and having a few minutes by myself, I just don’t feel like doing those mundane tasks like going shopping for groceries. Instead of going and doing it, I’ll look for somewhere I can do it or find it online. It keeps me sane!”
Men do shop online, but it is women who, as in the “real world”, are spending up big. From beauty products to children’s clothing, birthday presents and holidays, there is a market for almost anything you can think of. And with the possibility for global presence instead of “the shop people pass on their way to the bank”, the scope seems to be endless.
The beauty of the Internet is that an organisation need not have a fully-fledged website in order to generate online exposure. There are an infinite number of portals for online success, from industry specific search engines to online advertising and “community” type websites. So while it may have been expensive and time-consuming to build an online participation for one’s self in the past, this is no longer the case. And anyone who wants to be seen as being a professional organisation should be taking steps towards an Internet-based personality.