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Under the influencer

Having just ordered dog food, a trip to Spain, home contents insurance and a PS2 Singsong game on the internet, I then skipped through a report from the Interactive Media in Retail Group, an organisation that tracks internet sales.

The fact that it said the amount of goods bought through the internet over the last 12 years has totalled over £100bn caught my eye. But it is not the huge amount of online sales that should be taken note of, it is the speed of increased online purchases, with online transactions looking set to double this year compared with 2006.

The dominant search engines have grown to be some of the most powerful gatekeepers of commerce. If a website is not optimised as a listing on Google, you may need to rely on an unusual trading name to get a high listing on the search engine pages.

Another recent web-based research paper has just been commissioned by Double Click forming its annual Touchstone study and includes a segment of “influencers”. The research considers how advertisers can have an impact on word of mouth promotion.

One of the most interesting findings is that influencers’ favourite place to go to find out more about products is websites, but the second favourite choice is web advertising. Forty per cent of the influencers, versus 31 per cent of non-influencers, cite websites as their first choice for further learning about products. More surprising is that 19 per cent of the influencer segment say the place they go to learn more about products is web advertising, versus 8 per cent of non-influencers.

Rick Bruner, director of research at Doubleclick says: “People view web advertising differently to other forms of advertising. They see web advertising as most important in the ‘consideration’ part of the purchasing funnel. They pay more attention to advertising, in particular web advertising, when they are already aware of the product and are in shopping mode. That is partly because the internet is such a research-oriented tool for people and advertising is seen as a part of that”.

IFA Promotion says only 63 per cent of its IFA members, comprising 9,000 branch addresses, have a website. have been told many reasons why an IFA firm does not have a web presence, such s “I don’t want new non-referred clients”, “we’re a traditional business putting the emphasis on face-to-face service”, “IFAs are technophobic and that includes me”. Do any of these comments make commercial sense?

Am I also being too presumptuous to assume that all businesses have an email address? I am probably wrong, as the IFA Promotion statistics show that only 92 per cent of members have a business email address. How much time must the 8 per cent of firms waste by relying on snail mail?

With website builds and email hosting available from many parts of the world costing less than the average commission of a personal pension, it makes little sense to me that any service-led advisory firm does not use web and email services.

Only a tiny percentage of companies use blogs as communications tools but most firms will be using blogs in a few years and that means there is huge growth ahead for business blogging.

If a product or service is criticised on the main IFA blog site, Finserv, you might as well take the idea back to the drawing board. Influencers passing negative or positive comment on an industrywide blog site are one of the most effective ways to promote or demote products. Viral marketing can be one of the most effective ways to get your product or service to market. You need a web presence before you can maximise marketing opportunities. Moving your business online is not rocket science, it is common sense.

Kim North (kim@techandtech.co.uk) is director of Technology and Technical.

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