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Search Dominates Social Media When Shopping Online: Study

A new study about the buying habits of computer and consumer electronics shoppers shows the importance of search to the online shopping process. Search engines, in particular, are relied on much more heavily than social media — but the study also speaks to the importance of on-site search boxes.

The report — which can be downloaded via this contact form — was conducted by comScore and sponsored by Searchandise Commerce and iProspect. It involved more than 1,000 shoppers who took part in online focus groups in April of this year. When asked to describe the steps they took to begin the shopping process, almost 30% said they used a search engine as either the first or second step.

Search / Shopping study (2)

Visiting retailer websites or manufacturer websites scored highly, too. That’s not new; this 2008 study also placed search engines, retail sites, and manufacturer sites as the most essential product research options online.

Perhaps not surprisingly, social media was rarely mentioned: Only 4% said they visited a social networking as their first or second step, and only 3% said they visited blogs at the start of the shopping process.

The study also reinforces the popular “research online, buy offline” idea, but not as strongly as previous research. In 2008, Nielsen research showed that 80% of consumer electronics buyers bought at a store whose web site they visited first. In his article about the 2008 study I referenced above, Greg Sterling also mentioned reports showing between 80% and 90% of in-store purchases are influenced by online channels.

But in this new study, only 47% of shoppers in each category made a purchase in a physical store.

Search / Shopping study (1)

The study also credits site search — the search engine on a retailer’s website — as a key element of the shopping process:

  • 40% of shoppers in both categories used a site search box to find a product, while only 20% browsed the landing page.
  • After doing a site search, about 75% of shoppers clicked on five or fewer items.
  • Shoppers identify the first set of products shown via a site search as the items that will best meet their needs, as having the best quality, and being the most relevant to what they’re seeking.

The study goes into other aspects of online shopping behaviors that should interest many in the search marketing industry.

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