One of our major findings is that three usage occasion types — Loitering, Information Please, and Surfing — are more likely to involve shopping than others. They share an interesting relationship: They are the lengthiest sessions, ranging from 33 to 70 minutes. Page views are one to two minutes; these users are likely to linger on a page, so they can be exposed to different messages. Marketers have their best shot at connecting with Internet users during these sessions. Users are not in a hurry and they usually go to familiar sites, and their interests take them across categories (Information Please and Surfing users spend less than half their time at their main categories).
How can marketers detect these usage occasions? Tracking previous banner-clicks or purchases and the time a user spends on a site and its pages is one way. Noting the type of sites visited is another: People in Loitering, Information Please, and Surfing sessions go where there’s lots of content — things to read (as at Salon), games to play (Gamezone), and people to chat with (Parentsoup). Additional site characteristics that indicate users are in these occasions include a large number and size of graphics (during these sessions, users don’t mind long download times) and a registration requirement (they’re visiting a site they like enough to provide personal data).
To reach users in these session types, marketers could post messages meant to generate click-throughs to their own sites and to build branding awareness, since during these occasions users will be exposed to messages for a relatively long time. Content sponsorship, which associates favorite content with a particular brand name, is another approach. Surfing occasions may seem like a long shot for marketers because users’ behavior suggests impatient, impulsive clicking. However, if a site or message grabs their interest, they will likely pursue it. Boldly designed or worded messages, then, could appeal to impulse users attracted to novelty. An offline equivalent might be the magazine and candy racks at supermarket checkout lines.
The other usage occasions — Quickies, Single Mission, Just the Facts, and Do It Again — are a mixed bag for marketers. The sessions are shorter overall (from one to 14 minutes), but the page views can be lengthy, depending on the dynamics of the session (from 15 seconds for Quickies to two minutes for Do It Again). Users in these occasions are less inclined to buy than are those in the three other sessions, so click-throughs should be the goal only in very specific situations.
For example, users in Single Mission sessions are open only to messages related to the purpose of the session. Despite the awful performance of search-triggered banner ads on portal sites, a Single Mission consumer may be one of the few users who can provide a good return on a banner advertising investment. A woman with a specific task — perhaps shopping for a wedding dress — might notice an ad from a discount bridal shop, or a link to a site that customizes wedding invitations. However, she is probably not going to be distracted by an offer to sign up for an online music club.
Developing Online Strategies
Selecting the appropriate usage occasion is an important step in developing an online marketing plan. Consider a well-known, branded marketer of a new consumer electronics product — one supported by a fair amount of mainstream advertising. The company wants to use the Internet to market its gadget to young buyers, ages 12 to 25. As in the offline world, the marketer can select from a number of campaign goals — from building brand awareness, to creating communities of brand zealots, to interacting directly with the target consumer. In this case, since consumers are already generally aware of the product and the brand, the marketer decides to focus on positioning its brand as hip and cutting edge.