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How Consumer Online Research Impacts Sales

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A June 2006 joint study conducted by Yahoo and the Consumer Electronics Association asserts that seventy-seven percent of all consumer electronics purchases were influenced by online research. The study also examines the role of search in consumer research.

The market survey entitled Understanding How Consumers Use the Internet to Research and Shop for CE Products will not release its complete findings until mid-November.

I was, however, able to obtain a copy of a Consumer Electronics Association slide presentation concerning the research and pose some questions about the study’s findings.

Tim Herbert, Senior Director of Market Research at CEA began by telling me about the origin of the project, “The discussions first began with Yahoo asking about what research CEA had on how consumers shop for/buy CE products. I shared a few stats from a study CEA conducted earlier in the year. After additional discussions the idea of collaboration between Yahoo and CEA emerged.”

Mr. Herbert went on to add that the survey material presented to participants in the study was derived from past CEA consumer research, CEA sales data, and total retail sales figures from NRF/Shop.org.

Consumers are looking to make more informed decisions about product purchases these days; the study focuses on how search and the Internet as a whole can impact those decisions.

According to figures from the CEA presentation, 61% of consumers spend more than a week researching a potential consumer electronic (CE) purchase. Twelve hours of that time is spent online as 77% of those consumers made use of the Internet as a research tool with 47% finding product information via search.

The study also found that 71% of actual CE purchases take place in a retail store, with nearly two-thirds of retail consumers using the Internet as a means of research, with 45% of that figure using a search engine as a means of gathering information.

Print, television and radio ads, Internet display advertising, e-mail solicitation from companies, and even billboards are listed in the study’s findings among the marketing vehicles which consumers retrieve product information.

The online components of the marketing machine are beginning to carry greater weight among consumers, according to CEA’s representation of the information funnel:

With the Internet’s growth as a information tool in researching CE purchases, and with search accounting for just over half of all the traffic in that regard; what should be the focus of a company looking to market to the informed consumer?

The CEA study stresses the importance of understanding the search terms that intrepid consumers employ in product research.

With researching consumers relying on general keywords rather than specific product brands, it is important for manufacturers and distributors to market consumer electronics in a way that appeals to the consumer’s interest in general product features rather than other methods such as brand name recognition.

To tie all the numbers together, the CEA outlines key summary points to take from the research findings:

•  71% of CE consumers purchased offline. Of those, almost three quarters researched online first.

•  Online research could influence as much as $25 billion over a six-month period.

•  Consumers use six sources of information. It is imperative that your website is one of them.

•  55% of purchasers arrived at a manufacturer’s website via search.

•  Online should be a critical component of a holistic marketing strategy.

It might be an overstatement to say that the Internet has surpassed television as the marketing vehicle of choice.

It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that the Internet is a consumer portal of sorts, functioning as a bridge between product advertisement and customer purchasing by providing an invaluable information resource for the knowledgeable consumer.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

How Consumer Online Research Impacts Sales
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