Digitizing the Technophobes

IRI breaks down shoppers’ new-media habits

LAS VEGAS -- As retailers and manufacturers attempt to understand how consumers use the Internet on a daily basis, one thing is certain: It will all change before we fully get it.

“[Companies] are used to the idea that consumer segments don’t change that quickly. But when you have a revolutionary thing happening with the way people have access to information, some companies are not moving as quickly as they could or probably should,” said Carl Edstrom, principal, survey solutions, for research firm IRI.

Edstrom presented alongside ConAgra Foods’ Liz Mohr at the 2013 IRI Summit last month findings from a recent IRI digital media study. The study explored different shopper segments based on respondents’ use of the Internet, and how retailers and manufacturers can use that segmentation to craft their methods of communication.

The study found that among American Internet users—82% of the population and growing—there are five segments with varying levels time spent online and reasons for going online.


Representing 28% of the online population, technophobes tend to be older. They primarily use the Internet for email, and that’s about it. “They’re reluctantly engaged,” Edstrom told Convenience Store Products in an interview prior to the summit.


Fourteen percent of the online population, socializers are engaged online through a variety of methods to keep in contact with people, but they aren’t using the Internet for any financial reasons such as downloading coupons.

Wired for Work

At 23% of the population, these consumers are “using the Internet for pretty functional ways,” said Edstrom. “They tend to have smartphones and use them on a fairly regular basis, but it’s not for social reasons.”

Show Me the Money

Representing 23% of the population, this segment sees a financial benefit to being online, whether it’s downloading coupons or researching products prior to a purchase.

Digitize Me

Twelve percent of the online population fell into this segment, and they’re using the Internet for all the reasons above—work, socialization, financial applications and beyond.

Perhaps a glimpse at things to come, Edstrom recently presented the study to a group of marketing students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before presenting, he had the students answer some of the survey questions to see how they fell into the segments.

Not surprisingly, there were zero Technophobes in the group. The fact that there was no one in the Show Me the Money group was likely an anomaly, explained Edstrom, because most college students have no money. The number of Socializers was actually quite small, likely because the students do more than just socialize online—putting them into the Digitize Me and Wired for Work (or, in this case, wired for school) groups.

In the future, Edstrom expects all groups except Technophobes to grow. “What will happen over time is that the Digitize Me group will get larger, but it will also subdivide,” he said. “Some people will do absolutely everything … but there are limits to what others will do.”

Traditionally when a company does a segmentation study, it will wait three to five years before repeating the survey because things don’t evolve much year to year. “But the fact of the matter is the technology is changing so quickly, people are changing what they’re doing dramatically,” says Edstrom.

And it’s not just consumers who are changing quickly, “it’s also what companies are doing to change their behavior,” Edstrom continued. As retailers and manufacturers better grasp what segments their shoppers fall into, they’re adjusting how they address them online to include brand engagement for the Socializers, or couponing for the Show Me the Money set. Smart companies, Edstrom said, will identify all the segments their customers comprise and craft specific digital messaging that engages each of them in their own way.