The Consumer Barometer

Oct. 23, 2012 | by Richard James

Ever wondered how consumers in Belgium research and buy products compared to consumers in Argentina? How about the way men go about buying a car compared to women? Or what industry could most benefit from a site that looks good on a tablet?

Well, answers to these questions and more can be found in a new tool / dataset released by IAB in partnership with TNS and Google; The Consumer Barometer.

“If you love data, you can read more about the methodology used in this survey.”

The ideas behind The Consumer Barometer follow on from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) model, which they published last year as an ebook. The“Zero Moment” in the title is the time spent by consumers researching a product in the online or offline world, before a purchase happens in the online or offline world.

It is this cross over between the online and offline worlds that forms the crux of the data outlined in The Consumer Barometer.

“What do Google and IAB have to gain from this? They aim to get more businesses to spend more online. They are trying to fill in the blanks between the online and offline channels.”

Getting some basic info

There is some good news for small business owners or in house digital marketers; The Consumer Barometer has some easy to find, almost ready made reports. These are easy to dip into to get the data you need. Google have produced a polished video about Jacques who owns a shoe shop in France.

But let’s look at couple of other scenarios -

Scenario 1: Sean owns a family run toy shop in Ireland. He has a website but it’s quite old, doesn’t rank very well and he does no paid search advertising.

Toy shoppers UK and Ireland

Click to see live graph

The data above compares the consumer behaviour of UK and Irish shoppers when buying Toys.

From this data it looks like Sean could do with a website that promotes his store and products, but perhaps not expect the site to convert amazingly well. Instead, he can aim to target the high portion of Irish consumers who research toys online and encourage them to visit his store to buy offline.

Scenario 2: Beth is a marketer working for a multinational car manufacturer. This car manufacturer has an online presence in every country in the world, apart from Canada. Beth has noticed this glaring omission in their web presence and has approached the CEO to approve a new Canadian website, through which Canadian consumers can learn more about their cars and also buy online.

The CMO asks what kind of revenue stream they can expect through the website. Beth could have looked at the data for another country’s and extrapolated that to come up with a fudged figure. But instead she uses the consumer barometer. This is what she sees:

Car buyers Czech Republic and Canada

Click to see live graph

Compared with most other countries, Canada is behind in terms of people buying cars online. Phew, that was a close one. What Beth can say to the CEO is that while not many people buy online, they do research online before buying offline. It is a valuable channel, but direct revenues may not compare favourably to other territories.

Digging deeper

Love data? There’s more.

Let’s say you have a client that sells sports equipment online and currently only operates in the US. They are looking to expand into Europe and have asked for some figures, advice, anything to get the ball rolling. You hop on over to the Consumer Barometer and look at how consumers in various European countries buy their sports equipment.

Sports equipment buyers

Click to see live graph

What this shows us is that some territories will be more lucrative than others for our client. Turkey and the Czech Republic have around 35% of consumers buying sports equipment online compared to only 6% for Italy and Romania.

So let’s concentrate on Turkey and the Czech Republic, but also have a look at the UK as some kind of benchmark. What insights can we pull out of the data to help inform a strategy for our client?

In Turkey and the Czech Republic, consumers with low internet usage tend to be more likely to buy online.

Sports equipment buyers

Click to see live graph

This is surprising.

Consumers – who spend over an hour a day online – are more likely to purchase sports equipment offline, which seems counter intuitive and is opposite to behaviour in the UK. This insight can be taken into account when designing the site.

In Turkey and the Czech Republic, relatively few consumers research using a mobile phone and none research with a tablet before making a purchase. Compare this to the UK where more consumers research using these devices, but less research using a desktop, laptop or notebook.

Sports equipment buyers

Click to see live graph

This may lessen the priority of developing a responsive or mobile version of the site in Turkey or the Czech Republic.

And we can even see why this is the case; smartphone and tablet ownership in Turkey and the Czech Republic is relatively low when compared to the UK.

Mobile users

Click to see live graph

So, within a few minutes we have gained some key insights into potential new markets for our client:

  • The design of a site that sells sports equipment in Turkey or the Czech Republic, should be tailored to those who don’t spend a lot of time online.
  • A mobile version or responsive site may not be as a high priority for Turkey and the Czech Republic as it would be for the UK.

Research, research, research

As you look through the data it does become obvious that hardly anyone buys online without doing research. It does however, happen offline; people buy without researching what they’re buying (even cars!) but this is not the case for online. So if you are an online only business you can expect to be researched and compared to your competitors.

This supports the basic idea behind the Zero Moment of Truth:

“The average number of information sources used by shoppers doubled from 2010 to 2011.” – Zero Moment of Truth Handbook

This is the point of the data; Google & IAB want marketers to be able to better connect the dots between offline and online. Not all of an online marketing budget will see returns through the online channel.

The Future

One glaring omission is in the inability to compare between time frames. I think this report will be updated on a yearly basis allowing comparisons over time.

While this data is useful it seems a slightly inelegant solution, from Google’s point of view; qualitative data displayed in a quantitative way. I think Google’s long term goal will be to integrate the offline channel directly into their Analytics package. How? – Through a combination of Android, Google+, Google Wallet & search history data.

That’s if they can get past antitrust and privacy concerns.

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    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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