By Kevin O'Keefe

More people than ever using Internet for research on purchases

It was a just a little over five years I came to Seattle from rural Wisconsin to interview lawyers who would help me with the idea of creating an Internet based legal resource for consumers and small business people. I believed the Internet was the obvious place for people to obtain information about lawyers so they could make an informed choice during the hiring process.

I met with a number of lawyers, one of whom had represented a couple entrepreneurs who founded companies which are now household names. I told him we were only years away from people going to the Internet to select a lawyer. He thought I was nuts and asked if I really thought people would use the Internet as opposed to the yellow pages. When I said yes, he called another lawyer into the conference room to show them someone who was crazy enough to think the Internet would be so used by consumers and small business people. Needless to say I did I did not use this lawyer in founding my company and its subsequent sale to LexisNexis.

Five years later, people are using the Internet in droves to research products and services during the buying process.

One recent example is researching and scouting out the best price for a used car. According to a new study from J.D. Power and Associates, Internet use among used-vehicle buyers has jumped significantly, with 54% of late-model used-vehicle buyers using the Internet during their shopping process?up from 47% in 2003.

Internet Retailer reports Dennis Galbraith, senior director of research for J.D. Power and Associates as saying “This is the most explosive growth in the used-vehicle automotive Internet user rate we have seen in three years. Not only are shoppers using the Internet in greater numbers, but also far more of them are finding their purchase decisions are impacted by information found online.”

Although this is not legal services, take a look at the importance of the Internet for these folks during the buying process:

  • 36% of a all used-vehicle buyers say their make and model decisions were influenced by information found online?up from 29% in 2003
  • 22% of a all used-vehicle buyers influenced by information on the Internet in their selection of sellers?up from 16%
  • Among automotive Internet users, 85% say the Internet influenced the price they paid for their vehicle, and 66% say it influenced which make or model to purchase
  • For the first time, online sources have outpaced traditional newspaper advertising as the method that led buyers to the used vehicles they actually purchased

“Critical buying decisions increasingly are happening online,” says Galbraith. “This should serve as a wake-up call to used-vehicle dealers not yet using the Internet to promote their inventories. The more comfortable consumers become with the Internet, the more used-vehicle shoppers we will see going deep into the purchase funnel while online.”

If someone said 4 or 5 years ago the Internet would replace the newspaper classifieds as the primary place to go when looking for used car information, we may have called them nuts. Most people never expected the average person to go to some box on a desk to get the information they needed to make an expensive purchase – well it has happened.

As people become more and more comfortable with this box on their desk hooked up to the Internet, lawyers should expect consumers and small business people to go to the Internet when investigating legal services and selecting a lawyer. Lawyers should take a close look to see if their Internet marketing is working and being handled by someone they can trust.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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