Feb 28, 2011 at 8:31am ET by Greg Sterling
A new report from agency GroupM and comScore details the degree to which search and social media have become intertwined in the purchase path that consumers take across the Internet. The report is a follow-up to a similar study done in 2009.
GroupM and comScore looked at consumer behavior associated with purchase decisions in the electronics/telecommunications and consumer packaged goods categories. They found that while search dominates social media among consumers making buying decisions — nearly 60 percent of cases that end in a purchase begin with search – social media play an increasingly important role during consideration and especially after a purchase is made.
The report found that “40 percent of consumers who use search in their path to purchase are motivated to use social media to further their decision making process.”
Social boosts search CTRs
The phrase “social media” as defined here includes blogs, consumer reviews, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
The consumer behavior revealed in the study is complex. However the report supports the idea that social media are now critical for product or brand awareness and drive related, subsequent search behavior. GroupM stated that “when consumers were exposed to both search and social media influenced by a brand that overall search CTR went up by 94 percent.”
As one might expect, the “the top motivation of consumers to use social media in their purchase process is to get other people’s opinion (31 percent).” Almost half of those converting in the study used both search and social media, while the other half used search alone.
Source: GroupM Search
Most people start with search
Most people start with search (58 percent vs. 18 percent for social media) and use it throughout the purchase process. However a sizable minority (26 percent) said they only use search at the beginning of their research and shopping:
- Search is seen as the “pricing” tool throughout the buying cycle
- Consumers turn to search to conduct product research and select a purchase location
- 45 percent of people use it throughout, while 26 percent say they only use search at the beginning of their research and shopping process.
The report found that “28 percent of consumers said social media plays a valuable role in helping them become aware of new brands and products [and helped] eliminate brands from consideration for 30 percent of consumers.”
11 digital dance moves “from start to finish”
However the report also suggests that availability of increasing amounts of user-generated content and opinion may be elongating the purchase cycle. GroupM and comScore found that “the path to purchase is 60 and 57 days respectively from the first touch point, with up to 11 measured digital steps from start to finish.”
Here are more of the findings:
- 58 percent of consumers start with search, outpacing company websites (24 percent) and social media (18 percent)
- 40 percent of consumers who use search in their path to purchase are motivated to use social media to further their decision making process
- 46 percent of consumers who use social media in the purchase pathway are driven to use search to expand their knowledge about their likely purchase
User reviews most important to consumers
The report said that the “top-performing” social media in terms of usage and reach during the purchase process were the following:
- User reviews: 30 percent
- Social networks: 17 percent
- Video sharing: 14 percent
- Twitter: 9 percent
GroupM also found that “category-specific blogs have a reach of 16 percent among consumers who use social media in making their purchase decisions.”
After a purchase the study found that 64 percent of consumers are likely to follow a brand. Furthermore, “74 percent of consumers use a Facebook brand page as the desired format for following a brand for future engagement.”