Search: The 'Consideration' Medium

Just had a fascinating conversation with Chris Henger, who's in charge of marketing and product development at Performics (part of DoubleClick).

Among the many things we discussed in preparation for his panel at our upcoming Drilling Down on Local conference was where search/SEM fits in the overall media mix.

Heretofore search has been seen by marketers as primarily a "direct response" or directional medium (a la Yellow Pages). And it is. But it may ultimately be most effective as a marketing medium in that gray middle ground between awareness and conversion — consideration.

Data from a broad range of sources, including The Kelsey Group, show that consumers are using the Internet extensively before buying (mostly offline). This is where many consumers are using search engines — to do product research, price comparisons, local service provider research, etc.

Online, consumers may ultimately "convert" or transact on specific retailer sites or vertical sites or IYPs (data reflect people continue to use IYP sites when they're ready to buy). But this broad consideration/research phase is perhaps where search delivers most of its value to marketers.

This way of thinking is arguably different from thinking about driving transactions from keyword buys. This way of thinking also sees paid search as a medium that is complementary to or works in tandem with other media buys. It recognizes SEM as a way to engage the consumer at a critical point in the buying cycle when s/he is capable of being influenced before making a buying decision that may ultimately happen elsewhere.

We'll be exploring these and other implications of the comScore-Overture and comScore-DoubleClick research on Chris's panel at the conference:

The comScore-Overture Study: Findings and Implications
The widely publicized findings of a seminal comScore-Overture study will be explored in depth. The study found that 25% of search engine users ultimately purchased a consumer electronics product and that 92% of those purchases were offline. Generic search terms drove more than 70% of the volume, while trademarked terms were responsible for 20% and product terms the final 10%. Though the generic terms drove most of the volume, the more specific terms revealed consumers who were closer to a purchase decision. The study challenges conventional assumptions about consumer behavior and suggests important changes that will likely occur in search. Those shifts will have implications for other online media as well as the local marketplace.

Anne Frisbie, Senior Director, Category Initiatives, Overture
Chris Henger, VP, Marketing & Product Development, Performics
James M. Larrison, SVP, Corporate Development, comScore Networks
Kevin M. Ryan, Search Editor, iMedia Communications
Christopher Skinner, Managing Partner, MakeBuzz

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