Survey Confirms That the Real Money Is Online

As a home-based or other small business owner, if you’ve at all been hesitant to invest in a website or actively market your business online or via social media such as Facebook or Twitter, a recent research study by the Pew Research Center proves you might be making a very big mistake.  It found significant differences between high-income households and everyone else when it comes to technology ownership and usage, leaving no doubt that online is where the real money is.

Culled from three surveys by the Pew Internet Project from late 2009 and 2010, the study shows that 95% of Americans who live in households that earn $75K or more per year use the internet to some degree, where just 70% of those who live in households that earn less do.  In addition, higher income earners tend to use the internet more at home than do lower income earners.  Broadband connections are also more likely to exist in higher income households.

But earning power doesn’t just correlate to computer usage.  Cell phones are more likely to be in use in 95% of higher income households as well, while only 83% of lower income households have access to this kind of technology.  People who are of greater means are also more likely to own and use other technology as well, including desktop computers (79% vs. 55%); laptops (79% vs. 47%); iPods or other MP3 players (70% vs. 42%); and game consoles (54% vs. 41%), as well as e-readers (12% vs. 3%) and tablet computers, such as the iPad (9% vs. 3%).

Furthermore, the data show that individuals with higher incomes more actively participate in a whole range of online activities when compared to their lower-income peers as follows:

  • 93% of them use email
  • 80% get some if not all of their news online
  • 71% pay their bills online
  • 48% have used a cell phone for email purposes
  • 88% engage in online product research, and
  • 37% donate to charities online.

Perhaps the greatest difference between higher income groups and lower income groups when it comes to online activities is in their intensity of use.  Higher income groups tend to go online more often in any given day and for a much broader scope of reasons than do those in lower income brackets.

Most important to today’s home-based or other small business owner are the survey findings with regard to online commerce and its relationship to higher-income households.  The vast majority of higher-income internet users conduct product research (88%), make travel plans (83%), purchase products or services (81%), do their banking (74%), pay their bills (71%) and access the classifieds, such as Craigslist (60%) online.  Additionally, higher income groups pay for online content, review products online, rate products online and participate in online auctions at significantly higher rates than those from lower income groups.

Given the fact that more income often translates into greater access, perhaps these survey findings come as little surprise.  However, they do serve to reinforce the message that today’s emerging technology is having a critical, growing and irreversible impact on how we buy and sell our goods and services. 

For any business owner who continues to insist that “old school” when it comes to sales and marketing planning is sufficient, take a look at the facts.  It’s not enough anymore to tell yourself that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  That approach, even if it’s worked thus far, won’t for much longer―of that you can be certain. 

So take a class if you have to, hire a consultant, start reading and making changes in how you do things, talk to other entrepreneurs about what they know and how they’re getting the job done using today’s most cutting-edge technology options.  Start slowly if need be―but just get started.  If you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before you and your business are left behind.