Research tool: Study shows shoppers' search habits

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Search-engine marketing is the prime way online to acquire new customers and entice old ones back. But a ComScore Networks study, commissioned by DoubleClick, shows that consumers research products for up to 12 weeks before they purchase online.

The study shows that one out of every two online purchases is preceded by research on a search engine.

The findings came from surveying ComScore's panel of 1.4 million U.S. Internet consumers on 30 Web sites in the categories of apparel, computer hardware, sports/fitness and travel. Depending on the category, buyers conducted numerous searches before purchase. Buyers researching sports/fitness products conducted an average of 2.5 relevant searches. Apparel buyers averaged 4.7 searches; computer-hardware buyers, 4.9; and travel buyers averaged six forays into search engines in the 12 weeks before making their online transaction.

Consumers start their search using generic terms, then closer to the point at which they are ready to purchase, narrow down their search to the brand name.

The lesson for marketers is to bid on thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of search terms to attract consumers who are early in their buying process, said Stuart Elkins, exec VP at search-engine-marketing company Performix, a division of DoubleClick, but also make sure to use the brand name, coupled with the product name to pull in consumers who have made their decision and are ready to buy.

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