The Digital Divide and the digital purchasing process


We often hear about the Digital Divide when we address the topic of new technologies, but what do we refer to by this term? This is a concept that involves how content is enjoyed and the audience buying process, which is often not clearly and thoroughly addressed and explained.

Digital divide: what is it?

The Digital Divide (literally “digital divide”) could be defined as the gap between those who actually use new digital technologies, such as computers and the Web, and those who do not use them or make partial or reduced use of them.

This condition has, over time, caused a rift to form within the market of a brand’s potential customers, identifying two distinct clusters of people: on the one hand, the traditional customers, reached mainly by television, radio spots or billboards, and, on the other hand, the most innovative target, reachable through web marketing.

The best way to succeed in reaching both of these groups, then, is to adopt cross-media marketing strategies. To do this, however, it is helpful to first understand how different purchasing processes work.

The traditional purchasing process

It is typical of the 1990s and is considered a linear process, usually starting with a stimulus generated by a traditional advertising campaign (which one may have come in contact with on the subway, on television, or by reading a newspaper). After this preliminary stage there are two other relevant moments within the shopping experience:

  • The first “momentof truth,” when you actually buy the product or service, trusting the information you have;
  • Thesecond“momentof truth,” when you actually use the product by testing its quality and the promises made during the advertising phase.

The evolution of the digital purchasing process

With the advent of the Web, the buying process has certainly become more articulated and complex. The stimulus could always start with an advertising campaign, such as a billboard for example, but nowadays the customer tends to use all the media available to him: he might, therefore, view banner ads online, do a Google search or read reviews before arriving at the purchase and actual trial of a product/service.

As a result, we see the emergence of an additional moment within the shopping experience, the zero moment (Zero Moment Of Truth) given by the online research that precedes the actual purchase: customers want to inform themselves before they buy, so they read other users’ reviews and look for videos in which the desired product is prominently displayed and explained. The process no longer follows a linear criterion, and the so-called ZMOT of a customer inquiring in advance about product specifications is triggered by a comment or review from one or more other individuals who had previously taken the same steps and left their own feedback on the Web.

The new digital consumer, therefore, can be described as “empowered”: he is increasingly curious and demanding, looking for quick and precise answers that will help him evaluate as quickly as possible all possible alternatives to arrive at the final purchase decision.

Advertising investment: changes in the market

In this context, it is important to analyze the data on the Italian advertising market, which, while confirming the importance of some traditional media, also opens the door to new scenarios: in fact, although the shares of Advertising investment in some media such as television (42%), in the last decade the share of investment related to web marketing increased from 14% to 40% of the total advertising investment of Italian brands (source: Milan Polytechnic Observatory 2020), demonstrating the growing interest of investors in new digital strategies and the trend, which is unstoppable, in the sector.

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