Thursday, January 22, 2009

Web-based Technology and the Recovery - What Do Irish Consumers Want?

In keeping with the recent theme of Irish economic recovery, I have been wondering how existing (and not-yet-developed) web-based technologies can be geared towards enterprise and the enhancement of existing business activities. In particular I have been thinking about technologies which summarise trends in online search and media covearge - often these are provided for free, in the spirit of open-source software.

Now more than ever, there is a need for market research to find out what Irish people will buy during a recession (Fergal mentioned cosmetics recently). Also, what is it that Irish people really want - what are the new product developments that could be rolled out to re-invigorate consumer spending?

According to Genevieve Carbery in last week's Irish Times, social networking site Bebo was the most searched-for term in Ireland in 2008. But rival Facebook was the fastest-growing search term last year, while Polish social networking site Nasza Klasa topped the rising searches list in Limerick and Galway.

These statistics may change during 2009, but it is possible to keep track of developments using Google’s 'Insight for Search' website (www.google.com/ insights/search/), which provides information on the most popular search terms in different geographical categories and time frames. For the moment, it seems that there is a definite demand for "ambient awareness".

We have discussed the Google Trends software (similar to Search for Insights) quite enthusiastically on this blog before, again here, and also Quantcast Web User Demographics and Alexa.com. The Google Trends software has been enhanced to let users get their hands dirty with the secondary data, which potentially could be extremely useful. Writing here on the Google Research Blog, Heej Hwang from the Google Trends team describes how the Trends data can be downloaded to a .csv file (a common format to import/export data), which can be opened in most spreadsheet applications (or easily converted to do so).

The technology developed by Summize Labs is also worth considering. (Summize was recently acquired by Twitter, which I just discovered here). One used to be able to enter a topic in the Summize Labs search engine to find up-to-the-second "tweets" about that topic, then automatically analyze the attitudes expressed in the "tweets". (As an example, the last time I looked, the overall sentiment on Obama was "swell"). This could prove to be a very powerful tool for political scientists, marketers and all kinds of researchers. Twitter will be adding search and its related features to its core offering in the very near future.

We've also mentioned before that Google's chief economist is predicting that the brightest graduates in economics will seek their fortune in marketing in the years ahead. This will be due to the Internet giving companies the information-rich environment once available only in financial markets (see post here).

In June, searches for the word “recession” peaked at 30 times the 2007 average. There were almost three times as many searches for “recession” as there were for “Celtic Tiger” in 2008. Maybe there will be more searches for "recovery" in 2009?

1 comment:

Martin Ryan said...

David Behan has an interesting post on his blog about how web and commerce might interact in Ireland during the recession:

http://www.davidbehan.com/blog/the-internet-is-good-for-a-recession/