Easy Net Navigation is mandatory

Online users happy to skip frills for meat and potatoes

As the great Wayne Gretsky said, “The key to success is more than knowing where the puck is — it’s knowing where it’s going.”  During the past four years, NetSmart America.com has discovered demographics and psychographics are descriptive–years online are predictive. There are three key online user groups:

  • Newbies (less than one year)
  • Integrators (one to two years)
  • Pacesetters (three-plus years)


Newbies offer a unique opportunity to build long-term loyalty.  Initially, Newbies view the Internet as a novelty. They are excited but intimidated. As in the offline world, insecure shoppers value the merchant who takes the time to educate and help them decide which product best fits their needs.

Newbies who get help and reassurance will return again and again to user-friendly sites and portals. They will eagerly e-mail friends and put your site on the powerful Internet grapevine.


Advertisers should add a pop-up help screen; our study shows all users will tolerate just five clicks before they become frustrated and leave a site. For Newbies, a pop-up help screen will add stickiness, or increase the time they spend at a site. Then link them directly to that product or information.

Newbies value: user-friendly home pages (98%), simplified navigation (95%) and lists of frequently asked questions or FAQs (86%).

In six months to a year, the novelty wears off and users start the process of integrating the Internet into their lives. They may not purchase high-ticket products online, but this is where they make up their minds.  Sixty-six percent say, “It’s the first place I turn.”

Integrators primary motivations are to: save time (89%), simplify my life (86%), shop from home (81%) and ask dumb questions without feeling stupid (67%).


Integrators come to your site eager to do business with you. Make it easy for them. They start with a very specific need. They also want reassurance about their decision to purchase from your site or provide you with personal information. They want you to clearly communicate your commitment to security. It seems simple, but concerns about security (46%) and privacy (63%) are the primary obstacles to establishing relationships with online prospects.

Integrators value: simplified navigation (97%), interactivity (78%) and personalized repeat visits (74%).

In a mere three years, the Internet evolved from a novelty to a necessity, our telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. residents conducted in June and July shows. The Net has become a valuable time-saving tool. Logging online is second nature. Sixty-six percent report, “It is the first place I turn for everything.”


Pacesetters’ online activities offer glimpses into the crystal ball of what we can expect in 2002:

Sixty-seven percent of Pacesetters use credit cards to make purchases online vs. 33% of Newbies. Thirty-nine percent bought a high-ticket product at retail as the result of Net information vs. 31% of Newbies. Forty percent bank online vs. 14% of Newbies. And 27% of Pacesetters invest online vs. 8% of Newbies.

Pacesetters come to your site with high expectations.Make sure you don’t disappoint them.They have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.They are not surfers – they are serious shoppers.They know what is possible and expect the best.They are willing to give you as much time as necessary to gather the relevant information, but they are intolerant of confusing navigation (89%) or extraneous slow downloading graphics (84%).

While online users have inquisitive minds, they are easily bored.  Eighty-three percent leave sites out of frustration. They want meat and potatoes, not bells and whistles.

Pacesetters value: simplified navigation (97%), frequent updates (95%), links to dealers (79%) and direct online payment (63%).


In 1996, Pacesetters enabled NetSmart to forecast the explosion in online commerce in 1998. As we predicted in 1997, Americans are already embracing online banking and investing. Based on “NetSmart V,” our prediction is that 2002 will be the Year of the Woman Online.

Our new study reveals in terms of Newbies that male usage has plateaued and women are now creating the groundswell. Fifty-eight percent of the Newbies are women. As the female growth trend continues, women online will outnumber men 3-2.

To paraphrase Buckminster Fuller: It’s important to know about the future because we’re going to spend the rest of our lives there.

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