It is a fact that Internet usage statistics are rapidly growing. But does this automatically imply that all businesses should plunge headlong onto the web? Before saying "yes" or "no", consider the buying behaviour of 5 different Internet users. What does the statement "5 million South Africans use the Internet" really mean?
Chantal is a researcher and works from home. She has 3G Internet access and spends more than 10 hours a day online. She uses Google and accesses various information sources for research purposes. Yet she doesn't have a Facebook account and isn't interested in getting one. When she needs to compare prices, she heads for the mall.
Rika is a housewife with an ADSL connection. She's married to a wealthy businessman and balances her days between caring for her family, the shopping mall, and Facebook. Very comfortable with the Internet, she makes some online purchases but still prefers the offline shopping experience.
Judy is an accountant who's recently decided to grow her work-from-home business. She uses the Internet for business purposes and sees the value in having a website for her own business, but as a consumer most of her shopping is done offline.
Mark has a 3G connection at home which he uses to connect to head office on days that he doesn't have to go into the office. Although every decision that Mark makes is first researched on the Internet, he is an avid collector of printed advertising material and price catalogues to compare as many products as possible.
Tanya lives luxuriously on a golf estate and has many successful businesses. She uses the Internet for correspondence and banking. She belongs to a business network of service providers who promote their services at breakfasts across the country. When she decides to purchase, she posts a "need" request on the business network database instead of using Google.
So, does the growing online market mean growing online sales? At a maro level the answer would be yes, but as a business owner, you need to understand your potential customers' buying behaviour before you can be certain that your particular products and services are amongst those being sought online. If you were to direct your marketing activities purely online, you may be missing out on sales opportunties. After all, each one of these consumers have needs that have to be filled and if it isn't through you, someone else will.