December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

From eyeballs to buy buttons

Much like assembling Mr. Potato Head, identifying a winning customer profile is often an exercise in mixing and matching the obvious. It’s pretty clear what doesn’t fit. According to a report from McKinsey & Co. and Media Metrix, shoppers motivated by e-retailers that make their lives simpler are marketers’ sweet spot. What isn’t so simple, unfortunately, is making them happy.

The report sorts Web users into six groups. Along with the all-important simplifiers, the ranks include surfers, bargainers, connectors, routiners and sportsters. Simplifiers are a contradictory bunch. Though they have used the Internet the longest of all six groups-49% for more than five years-they spend only seven hours online per month. But in that time, they make half of online transactions. “To get sustained sales from simplifiers, the focus must be on providing superior end-to-end convenience,” says John Forsyth, principal for McKinsey’s marketing practice group, citing Amazon.com’s one-click ordering. But there are many other sound techniques. Streamline.com, an online service that delivers groceries, videos, dry cleaning and film, urges visitors to its site to “discover how Streamline can bring freedom back to your life!”

Surfers, as the name implies, seem to have the freedom, spending the most time online. Their Internet usage represents 32% of all online browsing, the report says. Surfers are mainly on the Web to explore, shop, find information and be entertained. Cutting-edge design, updates, a strong online brand and an assortment of products and services lure them to hit the buy button.

Bargainers will buy if there’s a deal to be had. Though just 8% of the online population, they make up 52% of visits to eBay, and frequent Priceline.com, Quote.com and uBid.com. To attract bargainers, Forsyth says, “appeal to them on both rational and emotional levels, satisfying their need for competitive pricing, the excitement of the search and desire for community.”

The biggest community-minded group, connecters, are also the newest to the Web. Some 40% of connectors have been online for less that two years and primarily use the Internet to communicate with friends. Connectors could become simplifiers if marketers can connect them to offline brands and make sites easily accessible.

Finally, routiners and sportsters use the Internet mostly for content, researching online but buying offline. Though routiners make some of their purchases online, they focus their browsing on about 10 sites dealing with news and finance. Sportsters have similar habits, but gravitate to sports and entertainment sites. However, there’s hope in converting these groups into buyers. According to the report, it is only a matter of deploying one of the Web’s most popular marketing mechanisms: affiliate links.

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