A clear understanding of the target group is one of the keys to business development and marketing communications that are targeted towards the actual and potential clients are most likely to result in a positive outcome.
To answer the question “Who buys my product?” and to establish a contact with the audience they need, companies create an image of a “typical” consumer that serves as a basis for development and advertising strategies. It is equally important that the consumer could easily identify himself with the “typical” traits and understand that the product is meant for him.
The process of including oneself in the target audience is not always unquestionable or immediate. It is certainly true for completely new brands or products that appear on the market: the consumer, just like the seller, raises the question “Who is this product or service meant for?” It is also true for new ways of making a purchase. What happens if the member of the core target audience, on that is, in essence, the key member of it, cannot attribute himself to an image of a “typical” consumer?
We analyzed one such case in August 2106 as a part of a qualitative research on the attitude of Russians to buying food products online. *
Home Alone in 2016: a Slacker or a Strategist?
Russians are quite accustomed to online shopping as about a half of them shop via Internet. Meanwhile, only 6% of them buy food products online.**
It would be logical to conclude that a person who buys food products online is just an ordinary person who has Internet connection available and needs to buy food products. However such opinion is not widely accepted and was expressed only in a single interview:
“It is an ordinary person who has a job and a family. He just chooses such way [of shopping]. Maybe, he saves time for the family, leisure or entertainment. It doesn’t matter if this person is from Moscow, a big city or a small town.” Alexey, 37, Moscow.
How do citizens of big cities in Russia see a “typical” person who buys food products online? The answers to a question “Please, imagine a person who regularly buys food products online. Who is that person? What is this person like?” were quite surprising.
Men took a special place in this “gallery” of consumer images: respondents primarily mentioned men in their answers, making an argument that “going shopping” is usually seen as a task for women.
The most “easily imagined” image was a single man, working from home. Moreover, the reason for him to buy food products online is not only intensive work (mostly in IT), but also the undefeatable laziness. Such young man rarely leaves home and going shopping would disturb his comfortable living.
“These are people… Whose work and interests are fully connected to the Internet. One connected to computers, working from home. These are people who are very busy. These are also people who love gaming”, Alexander, 38, Saint Petersburg.
“It’s some kind of a lazy person… Most likely, a man. Yes, I can imagine a man: overweight, he sits on his sofa with a bottle of beer, eating a hamburger. He is lazy, so he orders prepared food online, doesn’t go anywhere, switching channels on TV.” Sergey, 26, Saint Petersburg
Interestingly enough, this “typical” image is also shared by young men who see themselves as possible future buyers of food products online.
“The first image that comes to my mind is an overweight man, about 35 years old. He always sits behind his computer and never leaves home. He orders food products online because he is too lazy to distract himself from his favorite pastime: he either a gamer or a programmer. He doesn’t have a family or children.” Sergey, 23, Moscow
Women were also attributed the same features, but to a less extent. Again, it was surprising that such an image of a “typical” consumer was presented by younger women who do not exclude themselves from the possibility of buying food products online.
“It’s a young woman who stays at home, does nothing and orders food products online because she is too lazy to go outside. I imagine her like that.” Olga, 22, Moscow
Respondents’ lifestyles, as we found out, are completely different from the one they describe when thinking about a “typical” consumer. Thus, potential consumers do not attribute themselves to this type of purchase; consumers’ adaptation to such an unusual way of buying food products online is likely to be gradual.
There is one more image of a “typical” consumer, which is completely different from the lazy, overweight person “living in virtual reality”. It’s an image of an active and affluent person. Respondents imagine such person as a man who holds an executive position, is successful in managing his life, is focused and pragmatic. He is a strategist. Time management is not just a couple of words for him, even if he works from home: he plans every day to make it more efficient and productive.
“It may be an upper-level executive who may employ a house worker; he orders food products online to be cooked by her.” Stanislav, 47, Saint Petersburg
“[He is] about 25-30 years old with an active lifestyle. Works on a managerial level, he’s an executive. He buys food online because of convenience; also he doesn’t have much time for this part of life… for housekeeping.” Yelena, 41, Saint Petersburg
As for women, respondents see their reason for buying food products online could be housekeeping. Here they construct an image of a young mother who is occupied by housekeeping and looking after children. In constant care about the family going shopping becomes problematic, not even taking into account returning from the shop with a stroller, children and shopping bags. In this case, online shopping help planning the day and save both time and energy.
“[It is] a woman, with an average age of 30-35. I think that the person who buys [food products] online is, naturally, a family person with kids and little free time. It is more convenient to make an order via Internet then to find free time to go to the shop.” Tatiana, 29, Saint Petersburg
It is likely that everyone can imagine a situation when an online shop would be convenient: laziness, long working hours, inability to go outside. Every person can attribute a “typical” person who buys food products online with some traits, imagine an occupation, social status and reasoning for shopping online.
However, the question whether the question of possibility of growth of the share of online shoppers for food from the point of 6%, of possibility of forming of a stereotype of an online shopper for food as “every person who has Internet connection and a need for food”, when every person can easily accept it, remains just a question of time.
*We conducted qualitative research on Russians’ attitude to buying food products online in August 2016. This research project included 28 in-depth telephone interviews. Respondents were selected from men and women, 18-56 years old, living in cities with population of 100+ thousand people, who were responsible for buying food products in their household and had experience in buying food products online.
** This research was conducted among Russian of 18-64 years old, living in cities with population of 100+ thousand people, who were responsible for buying food products in their household (totally or no less than other members of their household). The survey was conducted in 52 cities in Russia, selected by size, federal district and gender/age groups via telephone. A total of 1022 interviews were conducted, while 453 respondents shopped online.