Posted 25 September 2001RESEARCH INTO the use of the Internet by horse owners, carried out by Harper Adams University College, shows that almost 50 per cent now buy specialist equine services and goods on-line.
Around 120 horse owners were surveyed at shows and events earlier this year. Researchers, Alison Monk and Patricia Parrott, Senior Lecturers at Harper Adams University College, along with Jo Brice, now marketing manager for Bigbarn.co.uk, an on-line service that allows consumers to locate local fresh produce, believe the results contain important information for equine sites.
Although the great majority of horse owners still prefer traditional shopping, using web-sites purely for research, 42 per cent of respondents said they purchased equine goods and services on-line. This is comparatively high against the general population, where only 30 per cent carry out transactions over the Internet.
However, the research also indicates that men are more likely to buy on-line than women - a trend that Alison Monk believes equine businesses, which generally have a larger female customer base, must reverse for their Internet sales to improve.
She said: "There is a clear difference in willingness to purchase over the Internet between men, 59 per cent, and women, 37 per cent. Since 75 per cent of horse owners and riders are female, this has implications for equestrian sites.
"Businesses selling on-line have to find ways of encouraging women to overcome their reservations about this form of shopping."
The research also found that:
· The 20-39 age group were more likely to buy on-line and to believe that the Internet will be the service provider of the future. Given their willingness to buy on-line, this indicates significant potential growth in this sector if concerns about security and other issues are addressed.
· 96% of respondents found equine web-sites to be useful and informative and were satisfied with the service currently offered. The most common suggestion for a new site was one providing information on local or county shows and events. Since such a web-site already exists, (www.horseevents.co.uk) this indicates that sites are not marketing themselves as well as they might.
· In common with the general population, the main reasons horse-owners gave for not buying over the Internet were security and preferring to see products face to face, as they were concerned with how to return a product, get a refund or exchange the goods.
· The plethora of web sites available means that many site domains are not easy to find. Consequently the browser encounters difficulty hitting the most appropriate web page.
· Development of a common web-site portal where like minded business can offer similar products, unified under one umbrella, identifying the multiple vendors and easily recognisable by the customers, becomes an attractive commercial idea.
· However the temptation to get the web sites up and running to achieve first-movers' advantage should be treated with caution if such sites operate purely as advertorial and are not fully functional for trading as this can lead to disenchantment for the user who does not return.