May 20, 2011

Only 7% Buy Off TV

In advance of tonight's 20/20 special "Infomercial Nation" (which will have aired by the time many of you read this), ABC has released a Langer Research Associates study of infomercial buying habits. Lots of interesting information, but here is one factoid that caught my attention: "Just 7 percent of Americans report buying from infomercials very or somewhat often."

When I started in the business, I often heard that "only 10 percent of people will buy off TV." The stat was used in sales to support the argument that DRTV creates huge pent-up demand at retail, where the 90 percent prefer to buy. At first, I wondered why the number was so low. After I'd been in the business a while, I wondered why it was so high.

Joking aside, after a few years I began to wonder if some of the more egregious industry practices combined with the proliferation of the Internet and better retail merchandising of DRTV items had negatively impacted the 10 percent number. So one year, I did some basic calculations using DMA data I had come across and the most recent Census Bureau population statistics I could find. The result: I discovered a little less than 9 percent were buying off TV at that time.

That was several years ago now and, although the comparison certainly isn't scientific, I think the Langer research is a good estimate of where we are today. In other words, that origial 10 percent figure from the "Golden Age" of DRTV is now down to 7 percent -- and most likely shrinking. It's easy to come up with reasons why, many of which are beyond our control. What's more interesting to me is what this says about the people who persist in buying off TV. There is truth in my jest. Why is the percentage still relatively high? What kind of people would endure multiple upsells, high S&H charges and the other travails of ordering direct and still buy from DRTV "very or somewhat often"?

I have my theories and 20/20 will certainly have theirs, but I'm curious to hear what people in the industry think. Use the Comments area or email me your thoughts, and I will blog about it at a later date.

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