What Your Choice of Search Engine Says About You

Wunderman Study Finds Distinct Purchasing Habits Among Bing, Google and Yahoo Users

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- What does your search engine say about you? Well, if it's Bing, you're probably an early adopter, but you also visit, shop and ultimately make purchases from Walmart more than other search-engine users. Google searchers, on the other hand, are partial to Target and Amazon, and Yahoo searchers have a strong preference for wireless service from AT&T and Sprint.

Adoption of Search Engines chart
Base: BAV USA Internet Users Q1-Q3 '09

Those are just a few of the tidbits uncovered by a group of WPP agencies in a survey of 17,000 people that found distinct profiles and purchasing habits among partisans of the top-three search providers. The study, being released next week, was conducted by Wunderman (an agency partner of Microsoft), along with BrandAsset Consulting, Zaaz and Compete. It is intended to determine the profile of search-engine-brand loyalists and identify how search engines are changing consumer behavior and helping to build brands.

The findings indicate that the search engine consumers use to find a brand's website may influence not only the perception they have of that brand but, more important for marketers, the decisions they make while on those sites. The study found different degrees of consumer engagement, from visiting to purchasing, based on the search engine used and the brands and vertical categories studied -- automotive, travel, retail and wireless.

"It's going to wake people up because it's a new wrinkle," said David Sable, vice chairman-chief operating officer, Wunderman. "What this means if you are managing a brand is that you need to know how consumers relate to Bing, Yahoo or Google and how that reflects on you."

Among the findings:
Google users are more likely to book a flight online at JetBlue or make a reservation on Hotwire. They are also more likely to do research on a Lexus, while Bing users tend more toward Toyota. Aside from uncovering the research and purchasing habits of consumers, the study claims to have identified a host of demographic and psychographic information on search-engine users.

For instance, AOL customers feel less intellectual than their peers, are 55 and older, spend their money more responsibly, want to blend in to the crowd, feel like they've gotten a raw deal out of life, expect less from their future and, believe it or not, still use dial-up modems. Bing users are middle-aged, highly educated tech-savvy individuals who consider themselves to be average and spend more than 10 hours a week online.

Googlers tend to be the average internet Joe, according to the study. The search leader's loyalists are conventional people yet open to trying new things, believe in following rules and don't consider themselves any smarter or less intelligent than the person next to them. Yahoo users tend to be 55-plus, reserved and a less-independent group with little faith in imagination. They feel they have little control over their future and are skeptical and cautious of new or untried ideas.

Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit, doesn't necessarily believe marketers can allocate all of their search dollars to one particular engine.

"The reality is that it's not like you can give one up for the other you have to be advertising on all at the same time," Mr. Lee said. "You have to be bidding the right amount on each engine given the kinds of customers you find there for a particular merchant. We have always seen that certain search engines perform better or worse for different clients, but whether their clients hang out at one engine or not or prefer one search engine over the other is not really a factor. That's only half of the equation and not all that actionable."

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