Social media challenges search engines for consumer influence
Use of social media has increased fourfold in the last two years, finds survey
Online retailers should not rely on internet search engines to drive business, according to the latest quarterly survey from IMRG and The British Population.
The IMRG/BPS Internet Access and Online Shopping in Britain report for the second quarter of 2010 shows that internet users visiting social networking and blogging sites have grown to 48.9%, a four-fold increase over the same period in 2008.
While overall access to the internet continues to increase – more than half of the UK population now goes online at least once a day – the number using the internet for online search is not increasing at the same rate, falling by 0.5% during the first half of 2010 from 73.7% to 73.2%.
IMRG says that, while the figures may not have the search engines quaking in their boots just yet, it does suggest to retailers that they need to consider the influence that social media has on consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Online shopping continues to increase – up from 66% to 67.3% during the same period – and continues to increase its share of online search. Of those using online search, the number actually shopping online increased by 2.4% to 91.9%.
Access by mobile
How people access the internet also continues to change radically. For the first time IMRG says there is now evidence of the growing importance of internet access via a mobile device, which, as a proportion of access methods, has grown to 15.1%, from only 5.0% in June 2008.
While a picture of consumers increasingly using their mobiles and other devices to visit social networking sites and to shop online may drive preconceptions about their age, growth in these areas is not limited to the youth market.
A quarter of those with internet access are over 55 and while growth in internet access across the population has averaged 13% since June 2008, the 65+ age group has seen access increase by 26% over the same period.
The more sobering insight from the survey is that, while online shopping is still showing a healthy increase in sales (IMRG reported June 2010 sales up 25% year on year at £4.4 billion), there is still a lot to play for with 23% of the adult population still without internet access and nearly a third of those with access not yet shopping online.