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We’re not as digital as we think we are

06 Aug

In anticipation of our presentation at the Marketing Association’s Digital Day Out, we wanted to take New Zealand’s digital pulse in a study that replicated JWT research conducted in both the US and the UK. And it turns out the digital revolution is certainly in progress but by no means complete, with the majority of New Zealanders still firmly in the ‘Dabblers’ camp.

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Most activity that is now more common online than off is dominated by utilitarian activities. We have swiftly adopted bill payments, product research and messaging. A nod of appreciation to the banking community is probably warranted here, because the investment in online banking facilities has accelerated the trust economy amongst New Zealand consumers, making it the norm to lean towards the speed and convenience of the online channel.

However, even amongst the more digitally active segments, there’s plenty that we’re not really doing online. Much has been said of the relative immaturity of e-commerce in New Zealand, and our survey backs that up, with the majority of consumers choosing to continue shopping in high street over online alternatives.

What is perhaps most striking is the paucity of ‘Hard Core Digital’ consumers in New Zealand. Their behaviour is marked, but their numbers are very, very small. This group represents a scant one percent of the market, and almost all of them are in Auckland (though sample size prevents me from getting too excited about this fact).

A quick glance at the Hard Core Digital segment would get the digerati very excited. Here’s a group that watches no traditional television, consumes all its news, and the majority of its music, online, and even does the majority of shopping online. And there’s no doubt it is a growing group. It’s just growing from a very small base.

And here’s the rub: much of the digital marketing activity that we produce as an industry appears to be aimed towards this group, or assume that this group is more significant than it really is. Before you leap to over-invest in the digital channel, you need to be clear in your objectives. If you’re trying to assert your position as an innovative brand then go for broke. But if you’re looking for hard results from online activity, you need to ensure you’re targeting the right people, in the right place, with a message and benefit that is relevant (sound familiar? It’s supposed to). This means understanding why we’re online, what drivers are at play, and how we can appeal to those drivers.

Our research identified that the majority of New Zealanders choose to be online because it’s faster, easier, convenient and cheaper. Conversely, when we choose the physical over digital, it’s because it’s a better experience, more authentic and more meaningful. So when we talk about delivering a great online experience, we’re most often talking about a seamless, easy to use functionality; the rational stuff. When we talk about delivering a great experience offline, we’re talking about emotional connection.

There’s no doubt that digital needs to be a core part of your marketing mix. Almost all product comparisons and research is now done online, even amongst the proudest of Luddites. So you need to address this. But what our study suggests is that if you’re feeling a little behind in the digital space, you’re probably in step with your consumers. Invest, yes, but do so in a calm and considered manner because the consumer is playing catch up too.

  • Simon Lendrum is managing director of JWT New Zealand. For a full copy of the report ‘Digital New Zealand’, emailsimon.lendrum@jwt.com.
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