The Revolution Is Over

It’s 2002. Welcome to the mainstream. Now what do we do?

Integrate.

If there’s one inescapable conclusion to be gleaned from the wreckage of 2001, it’s that the Internet and the Web have become a firmly entrenched part of consumer life. A quick glance at the fascinating Google Year-End Zeitgeist, which chronicles what terms people searched on during the past year, will put any doubts about that to bed. Online users are concerned with the very same things as folks offline. Most Americans have some sort of Web access according to a Pew Internet and American Life study, and demographics regarding race and ethnicity online approach the same distribution as the offline world.

Another indication that the Internet has become an integral part of life for many can be found in the Yahoo/ACNielsen Internet Confidence Index. Designed as a measure of consumer confidence in the Web and e-commerce, the September results showed a five-point rise since June 2001, with consumers indicating that they’d spend $16 billion in Q4 2001. Most interestingly though, “light users” of the Web (those using the Web less than once a day) showed a significant increase in their willingness to purchase online. It ain’t just the techno geeks and Web users who are buying anymore. And that’s good.

Another interesting indication that the Web is starting to resemble the analog world can be found in the reduction of surfing and the consolidation of so many online media properties. Jupiter Media Metrix reports that in March of 2001, just 14 companies attracted 60 percent of online users’ time, as opposed to 110 companies in 1999. People are settling into online routines; the industry is consolidating; and media choices are become more limited, at least in terms of reaching large numbers of people. There are still many sites out there, but fewer people are going out of their way to find them… and fewer advertisers are looking beyond the top sites for ad placements.

So now that we can see that the Web has become part of so many people’s lives, what does it mean for Web marketers in 2002? Mainly, we need to remember that it’s just one part of the marketing mix.

Most of the successful e-tailers that have survived the shakeout of the past year have done so by recognizing that the Web is just another channel, another way to reach customers. If the flameout of the pure-plays has taught us anything, it’s that though the Internet may be the most efficient, easy-to-use, cost-effective, and time-saving way of buying stuff, not everyone wants to buy online. It’s true that online sales seem to be up, but it’s safe to say that the malls are hardly doomed.

Looking forward to 2002 means looking forward to tight integration across all marketing channels. Now that the Web has become mainstream, we need to look at how its unique characteristics can be used in the marketing mix to boost the bottom line… and how more traditional (non-Web) methods can be integrated, with the goal of creating total brand experience every place that our companies and our customers meet.

The future is here, and it is one in which no single medium will dominate. Until the next revolution hits, we’re going to have to accept two facts: Customers will contact us in the way that’s most comfortable for them, and most will continue to occupy the middle of the bell curve when it comes to adoption and usage. The future is sure to bring us more whiz-bang technology in the form of television convergence, wireless ubiquity, and immersive environments, but we need to remember that though technology changes quickly, people change slowly.

The Web revolution is over. We won. Welcome to the mainstream. Now get integrated in 2002.

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