Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Online consumers: how we're buying now

Firms develop innovative online strategies to stay in touch with savvy customers who shop when they want

Almost a third of the population shops online. Photo / Thinkstock
Almost a third of the population shops online. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders are increasingly becoming "convenient consumers" as they choose to shop and watch television when it suits them.

This has seen a massive shift in the way businesses market their products as they are forced to find innovative ways to keep up.

The Nielsen Company found almost a third of the population shops online, spend 81 minutes a week watching content online and are increasingly digitally recording television programmes to watch later.

The New Zealand 2012 The Year That Was report said the way people consume media and stay connected would continue to change at a rapid pace which would always be the way in a digital world.

People are working longer hours and delaying retirement and so are increasingly becoming the "convenient consumer", the report said.

"For pure digital businesses this will be relatively straightforward. For others, commercially managing the transition to the bigger world is a bigger problem."

Dr Bodo Lang, a senior marketing lecturer for the University of Auckland's Department of Marketing said the "army of one" tactic was becoming increasingly powerful as big corporates rely on a good reputation to beat their competition.

Social media is an effective tool for companies communicating and targeting their audiences, but it also empowers their consumers to force a change.

Two decades after their production was cancelled, in June 2011 Upper Hutt mother Amber Johnson started a Facebook page titled Get Griffin's To Bring Back Choco-ade.

By July last year, nearly 15,000 people had voted for the biscuit's return and Griffin's said that because of the passion and support, they couldn't help but listen.

"In some ways it's changed everything, but it's also stayed the same," Dr Lang said.

But social media has a significant downside for businesses as it allows people to give feedback, meaning the company's Facebook page must be manned at all times to respond swiftly and positively to any unflattering posts.

And because people were drifting away from watching their favourite shows at the time a network dictates and are recording them or watching it online, advertisers have to get more creative.

Dr Lang said product placement was a subtle yet effective way of reaching a key demographic.

John Albertson, president of the New Zealand Retailers' Association, said marketing "in the old days" was comparatively easy to what it is today.

"The consumer is now the one in the power seat. They're the ones who call all the shots and we have to respond because now they can basically buy whatever they [want], from wherever they want, whenever they want so to catch a part of that business you need to be part of the game."

Mr Albertson said the key to marketing a business in the digital age is knowing your audience so you can communicate with them in the most efficient way, or "miss the boat".

If a retailers' customer base is young, Facebook was a great marketing tool because it is free and allows for interaction. But for an older demographic, emailing or texting might be a better method.

However, for businesses choosing to use digital methods of keeping in touch with their customers, there was a fine line between keeping them updated and pestering people.

Consumption at a click

How we organise our digital lives:

39% of households have a personal video recorder (Up 14% on 2011)

• PVR households spend 12 mins extra a day watching TV than non-PVR housholds

81 minutes - Time Kiwis spend a week watching content online (Up 16% on 2011)

• Soaps and dramas are the most popular genres to record and watch later - the most time-shifted show in 2012 was Call the Midwife

• MySKY households watch an additional 35 mins

54% of internet users are over 35

1.7 million Kiwis have a smartphone (Up 11% on 2011)

1.8 million Kiwis over the age of 18 shop online (Up 10% on 2011)

• Of those who shop online, 16% used a mobile and 13% used a tablet to make a purchase

- NZ Herald

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