Impact of the Recession on the Internet Economy

By: Groshan Fabiola

I am getting hammered by everyone (employees, clients, investors, mom) on what I believe the impact our current recession (including peoples' paychecks and efforts for raises) will have on our market. I get asked not only for the effects in general or in internet marketing, but an overall effect on the online economy. It is hard enough to have to admit to the recession, let alone get bombarded by people about it.

*Disclaimer: I am known to be a fatalistic optimist, so please take my words how you wish.

In the long run, the recession should have an overall positive impact for many, because more people will be throwing more dollars online. Of the yearly $240 billion currently being spent on advertising, only 7% is online. In contrast to this, people spend 17% of their advertising consumption online. The most important advantage of marketing online versus offline is the ability to enter into short term relationships and see enough data to move and adjust a campaign, without having to pay for lunch (and you can skip the dinner invite) . To market offline, you typically have to plan months in advance and commit to a campaign (TV/PRINT/RADIO) for multi-month or even year terms. Your data will come in every couple of months, and other than seeing spikes in sales, it is hard measure what is and is not working. This doesn't seem to fly in the technologically advanced world we live in now. And if you are still sharing your internet connection with your phone line- why are you reading this? When you spend your money online, you can see exactly what each dollar is doing and if you see problems in your campaign, you can change and adjust it whenever you want. You can also enter into short term contracts (sometimes as little as a month at a time) to experiment.

Because of the obvious efficiencies in online advertising as compared to offline, I believe more of the dollars being spent will move online. The overall advertising dollar pool may soften a bit, but online has such a small portion of it that we can only expect to see more money. I don't think the question is whether or not online continues to grow (again phone/internet sharers, this is beyond your reach) as much as it is at what rate it is growing. Furthermore, the recession may actually accelerate the industry's overall share of marketing dollars.

But Ay, there's the rub; one area that the internet could see problems, is with investment dollars being thrown at us (we aren't strippers here). Aside from Google and a couple of other real successes, the internet has not exactly been the safest play for investors. Sure, there have been some huge IPO's for investors in the past, but most of those companies that paid huge dollars to investors were very artificial (and most have closed their doors). If you are one of those companies that relies on investment to sustain growth, you had better have one hell of a plan B, as the private equity market is inevitably going to dry up.
You all asked for it, and I believe that the internet will have a similar effect for online commerce as it does offline. I am partners in many online commerce stores and we can already see a bit of a negative effect in higher-end "luxury" items. Commerce will soften in general and will certainly appear online. We could get a nice new breed of people looking for better deals, and everyone knows (now) that the internet is by far the most efficient place to do that.
Those are my thoughts...buckle down, save money, and most importantly, make a very strict plan to be able to turn your company profitable by the end of the year.

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