ComScore has been the most active research firm in searcher behavior studies. This week, it released a study, funded by Google, that offers some amazing stats regarding search. The results show 25 percent of searchers purchased an item directly related to their query. This average was across six categories but wasn’t weighted by the relative revenue or popularity of the categories. Diversity of conversion across categories was significant:
|Buyer Conversion for Select Product Categories, November 1-December 31, 2005 (%)|
|Category Searched||Buyer Conversion||Buyers Converting Offline||Buyers Converting Online|
|Average, all categories||25||63||37|
|Apparel and accessories||43||65||35|
|Toys and hobbies||42||88||12|
|Music, movies, and videos||28||83||17|
|Video games and consoles||17||93||7|
|Jewelry and watches||15||75||25|
|Source: comScore Networks, 2006|
The study observed searches and related purchases occurring from November 1 to December 31, 2005. It finds of those 25 percent of buyers, 37 percent completed their purchases online. Therefore, a much greater segment of completed purchases occurred offline (63 percent). (Of course, the question remains whether offline purchase behavior was actually influenced by search and Web interaction or whether the local stores would have received the business anyway.)
In addition to being very bullish on SEM (define) in general, this study offers some major implications on the SEM landscape’s likely evolution over the next several years. Pre-product research in many industry categories used to be conducted at the local library, through conversations with friends (seeking recommendations for products), or interacting with the sales staff at the retail location.
Within just 15 years, the Internet has become the dominant source of product information, including pricing. Concurrently, multichannel retailers have joined pure-play Internet retailers in selling products directly. The Web, therefore, has become a glorified catalog that includes reviews, ratings, testimonials, popularity scores, and availability all at the consumer’s fingertips.
The comScore study attempts to get at the relative value of search and local stores: "More than 80 percent viewed search as helpful for purchasing gifts, seven in ten claimed search was influential in helping to find gifts and more than three out of five indicated they would be likely to use search the next time they intended to purchase a gift. Search ranked closely with online retail stores as well as friends and family on each of these attributes, and only physical stores exceeded search on each of these attributes."
The overall buyer conversion percentage indicates two things:
The study doesn’t rank the relative conversion types by price or shipping weight/cost, both of which may have been factors. Some shoppers may feel more comfortable purchasing more expensive items locally, or they may choose to purchase expensive items online to get the best price and avoid sales tax. My review of the results, by industry:
For the next holiday season, we may see a different mix of marketers at the top of the search results as the multichannel and retail marketers recognize the true value of search advertising to their businesses. Or, if those retailers have the only stores in their regions and don’t have to worry about losing the offline sale, they may just wait for their customers to walk in with product printouts from their online competition. Time will tell.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.
Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.
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