The Internet is no longer a novelty and Americans are getting more serious about going online. The recent Pew Internet & American Life Project released the results of a survey it conducted of 1,501 people. "The Web is shifting from being the dazzling new thing to being a purposeful tool," said Lee Rainie, director of the project.
The key takeaway of the study is that experienced users tend to spend less time online but tend to be more serious when they use the Internet. For instance, they may be more savvy and task-driven.
Make purchases online
Conduct banking transactions online
Trade stocks online
Plan and book travel arrangements online
Use the Web more at work
Write emails with more significant content
Pursue more activities online
The number of Internet users who have ever bought anything online grew 45 percent year over year -- from 40 million in 2000 to 58 million in 2001. In contrast, the average time spent online fell from 90 minutes in 2000 to 83 minutes in 2001. According to the study, users did not seem as interested as they became more sophisticated with the Net.
I try not to be hyperfocused on one study when writing to you and planning media on a daily basis, but it's important to look at research like this study and compare it to other research. In addition, as a media buyer I need to assess whether this is representative of my clients' core target audiences. But it's important to keep in mind that the sample size in this study is small.
Let's think about time spent online for a moment. A consumer packaged goods client of mine recently asked how long the company's target audience (moms with kids) spend online. We quickly pulled numbers from Nielsen//NetRatings and found that this audience goes online daily but only spends about 10 minutes per week online. The client asked if this was good or bad. This question, of course, does not have a quick answer.
Without letting the cat out of the bag completely, I can say that we delved deeper into the target audience. We found these women to be... guess what... Web savvy. Most had been online for at least four years. Members of this group, like many women, are considered destination-driven.
For example, imagine a busy mom looking for a recipe for how to cook a turkey. She most likely has her favorite sites bookmarked, including her preferred search engine. When she gets there, she types in a series of keywords or keyword phases, such as "turkey recipes." After spending a half a minute or so reading the results, she then clicks on 1 of the top 10 links, landing on the Martha Stewart site. After about 30 seconds, she realizes that there is no way she has the time or the inclination to spend the two full days Martha's recipe requires to prepare and cook this bird. So our mom goes to a women's portal, clicks on recipes, types in "turkey," receives about 10 recipes, quickly selects 1, prints it out, and signs off. So in this scenario, time spent online per session doesn't seem to matter all that much.
What would matter is contextually relevant advertising that appeals to her by helping her reach her goals online. Such creative and messaging should be free of gimmicks and straight to the point. When developing such ads, consider how time-starved this woman is. Your message needs to capture her interest in mere seconds. Remember: She's savvy, she's busy, and she doesn't want to be wooed. She just wants help to make her life easier.
Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen. She was most recently vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. A marketing communications veteran of 11 years, Seana built online media services divisions for AGENCY.COM, Arnold Communications, and Digital Equipment Corporation. She serves as an instructor for The Laredo Group and Ad Week magazines where she teaches the "How to Buy and Sell Web Ads" courses.