Like many of you, I am always stunned at the audacity of the digital industry’s loose use of the truth, particularly when it comes to the sweeping generalisations used to manufacture credibility.
The early social media ‘experts’ were excellent at faking the truth on things like the speed of internet uptake versus existing media. It was Gisle Hannemyr who revealed the truth about internet adoption rates in his famous essay “The Internet as Hyperbole“.
One area consistently full of untruths, is the statistics used to support the use of online search, in consumer buying behaviour.
A quick history lesson – prior to the internet, the Yellow Pages invited the public to “Let your fingers do the walking“. And when you wanted to buy a big-ticket item, you sought information from friends and colleagues, read reviews in media, walked around different shops and asked ‘experts’ who worked in the stores, or even invited them to your home to explain or demonstrate their wares.
In other words, humans searched for information about goods and services before they bought stuff – a very sophisticated apex primate behaviour.
Today, people still buy using the same habits of searching for information. But as the laziest species on the planet, humans will always travel the path of least resistance for personal gain. So now, in addition to asking others and visiting stores, people also use search engines, websites, reviews and social media to gather information before buying – online or offline.
So there’s nothing new to see here folks. Habits haven’t changed – just the technology available to behave as we’ve always behaved.
Which is why this week, I was dismayed to see the following headline in a piece of ‘content‘ which was ‘curated‘ in the form a FREE Whitepaper, by a well known brand flogging marketing automation and content marketing. The company claimed:
93% of buying cycles start with an online search, and 88% of clicks come from organic search
To put it bluntly – what utter bollocks.
The truth is entirely the opposite of this claim. It’s more like 96% of all buying decisions never, ever, involve the internet, let alone search engines or organic search terms. And the punters don’t need content to help them make all their buying decisions.
Think about what you buy in a typical week. Let’s start with groceries – there are dozens of buying decisions involved with the weekly grocery purchase. In fact, your weekly grocery shopping involves the largest number (and percentage) of your weekly buying decisions.
Consider your weekly purchases – tinned food, snacks, drinks, pasta, rice, dairy, biscuits, cleaning products, personal grooming, health care, blah, blah. And then there’s your fresh food – fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, deli-items and more. Dozens of buying decisions, most of which are made in-store, or in some case in-online-store – but almost exclusively without search engine support.
People also make other buying decisions for things like petrol, newspapers, gifts, flowers, school things, household items, etc. But rarely on a weekly basis, do we make lots of considered purchases – apart from dining out. The majority of our buying decisions are automatic or made at point of sale.
Certainly when we have a considered purchase, like new clothes, furniture, a holiday, or car, we will undertake research and likely use search engines as part of the process. But to claim (without any supporting facts) 93% of all buying cycles start with search engines, is at least dishonest, and is grossly distorting the facts. Or maybe they’re just lousy researchers?
These falsehoods are driving the content marketing boom. Apparently humans have stopped all previous behaviour and now only use search engines and websites or Apps to gain knowledge about brands – so you’d better stop advertising, and start publishing like there’s no tomorrow.
This is obvious when you visit your local supermarkets. As you know the aisles are chock-full of shoppers frantically searching websites for content before they dare purchase anything.
Shoppers stand around with phones in hand, uploading images of products like yoghurt tubs, as the first step in their buying cycle. They post messages to their ‘friends’ such as “help me decide – should I buy the low fat apricot or the sugar-free strawberry? Like my Instagram or Facebook page, so I know what to buy” #whichyoghurtjourney #luvyoghurt #helpmechooseyoghurt #lowfat #sugarfree
I’d better go warn the green-grocer and tell him he’s about to go out of business. He hasn’t any whitepapers demonstrating his thought leadership on corn cobs. Not to mention the tomatoes – surely he can run a simple webinar to add value to his customer’s tomato buying-cycle journey? The silly bugger just has handwritten signs outside his store and at point of sale – signs like “organic navel oranges $3.99/kg“. How will they work in a non-sales, content-dominated world?
And I feel sorry for my local butcher – he’s so silly, he tries to sell things instead of just publishing secret sausage content. Yes folks, he sells for a living – how quaintly old fashioned. Hasn’t he heard the social selling mantra “selling is dead“? You no longer have to sell – just publish and all will be well.
Here’s how stupid he is. Today he has a sign outside his shop; “Legs of lamb only $19.99/kg – save $5/kg”. What is he thinking? Nobody will buy his lamb legs – he’s not supporting them with any video or ebook on the benefits of eating lamb. He has no content to position him as a leading legendary lamb leg Linkfluencer. The poor sod, he’s going to lose the lot.
And the local baker hasn’t even got a website – she relies on the location of her store, the quality of her pies and pastries, as well as word-of-mouth to make a living. What kind of fool is she?
All this talk of food has made me hungry. I might pick up a couple of meat pies for lunch. Shame the baker won’t be there to chat – she’s made so much money she’s holidaying in Europe.
Just imagine if she had the time to do content marketing…