PC makers need ‘common touch’ to boost their sales

With home use of PCs on the rise, manufacturers are in a position to clean up – if they make the effort to advertise in layman’s terms.

Today’s top business people are, of course, computer literate, but a new study shows that this is now as true at home as at work. Carlton TV’s Connector 97 research looked at directors and senior managers living in London and the Midlands with family incomes averaging 48,000. Most are men, though one in five are women, and half are aged under 45. Almost every one of them has a PC at home.

Just over 500,000 such people live in London and the Midlands, 360,000 in London and 190,000 in the Midlands. Three-quarters have a desktop PC at home, a quarter a laptop, half have CD-Rom, and half have colour printers. A third have Internet access and more than this have modems with which they can gain Internet access. Highlighting their interest in acquiring new technologies, two-thirds already have mobile phones and most of the rest intend to buy one. These probably represent the homes of the future.

Just what do these business people do with their home computers? Word processing is a natural skill for more than 80 per cent, and the work ethic of the Nineties is highlighted by two-thirds of these using their PCs to work at home. Spreadsheets are no longer something used by anoraks – they’re used by most business people, and it is now commonplace for these individuals to run their household finances at home, on screen.

Despite the new work ethic, leisure activities also get significant use, with the PC being used for games, hobbies and also personal education. More surprising, perhaps, is the growth of e-mail – a third now use it from home for both business and personal communication as many of their friends and associates are accessible in this way.

Being a sophisticated user does not guarantee understanding of the current style of computer ads and promotions. Over three-quarters of the senior business people asked find computer jargon confusing and can probably not tell a bit from a byte, Ram from Rom or a Meg from a Gig – but this doesn’t stop them using PCs daily. The homes surveyed form a major market for PCs and peripherals, yet virtually all of them say they would only buy from a company that makes buying simple and products that are easier to understand and use. The mystique needs to disappear, as it has in computer use, but not in many PC product descriptions and promotions.

What is important to these people when buying a new PC or PC peripheral? Why do they buy new technology?

Almost all – only one in eight say they never take work home – claim they spend money on new technology to save time, with two out of three wanting to save time in order to have fun. The last thing they want when choosing new equipment is to investigate the mystical techno properties of what they are about to buy. What they say they want, over and above a good price, is to be able to buy from a company they trust to sell them reliable, value-for-money products and that provides a caring aftersales service. Company trust is part of company image, the reverse of technospeak.

What do senior business people do with the leisure provided by new technology? Their habits are not that different from the rest of the population. When asked how they spend their time the most popular activities on days off were shopping, closely followed by watching TV and then gardening, visiting friends and DIY.

Connector 97 looked in detail at what they watch on TV and on average each of these busy business people manages to watch TV in peaktime for about 14 hours a week, just under half of their viewing going to the BBC and the rest to commercial TV.

Between 7pm and midnight in an average week almost 90 per cent watch BBC1, over 80 watch ITV, over 50 per cent Channel 4 and just over 40 per cent tune into the satellite TV channels. The programmes they watch follow popular choice: dramas like Touching Evil and the X Files, soaps like Coronation Street and EastEnders and popular US series like ER, not to mention Champion League football.

TV could play a major role in building trustworthy, caring company images and in communicating what technology can do for the business person, not how it does it. This is the kind of information they want, and can understand and use: they certainly cannot be persuaded by jargon and computerspeak.

The people in the Midlands and London areas alone form a market of 550,000 individuals, with average family incomes of 48k. Virtually all of them are in the market for new technology in the computer, telecoms and other sister products.

Although most have a home computer, 40,000 intend to buy one this year; 40,000 intend to get Internet access this year; 68,000 intend to get CD-Rom, 69,000 a modem. Yet virtually all claim to be confused by computer jargon and are looking for simplicity. The computer companies need to meet these needs effectively by simple, direct and buyer-oriented advertising that can be understood by the busy business person.

PERSONAL COMPUTERS

Technical note

Connector 97, a single source study of TV viewing and IT & telecoms ownership & attitudes, was commissioned by Carlton Television and carried out by Continental Research. Respondents numbering 682 in London and the Midlands, with family incomes over 30,000 and who are senior business people or home PC owners, completed four separate weekly TV diaries and four self-completion questionnaires. The study was carried out between May 12 and June 8.

PC JARGON AND CONFUSION

% agreeing that:

I would only buy from a computer company that makes buying simple

Computer jargon & terminology are confusing

Computer companies should make their products easier to understand and use

Base: 477 senior business people

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