Every purchasing decision starts with research and comparison. Today this is done online. Knowing what users search for can help sellers reach the hearts and pockets of customers.
Before making a purchase consumers do research. It may be short and impulsive, like smoothing down the fabric of a shirt in the clothes store, or more complex, like searching for a house to buy.
The decision is also preceded by a comparison phase. This is the stage in which the purchaser measures the choice against other options, or against the option of not buying anything at all. Again, this applies to both the most casual choices, like plucking a candy bar from a shelf packed with sweets, to the most deliberate decisions, such as booking the annual family holiday.
Research and comparison require information, and today, this information is at our fingertips, literally. Ninety-five percent of the US population owns a mobile device—and they use them to shop. Users turn to Google to search for information before they make a decision to purchase.
Knowing what customers are searching for on their mobile devices is essential for marketers. Companies increase their chances of being seen where their potential customers are looking and providing them with the information they want.
So, what are consumers searching for?
1. People Are Looking for the ‘Best’ of Everything
In the past 2 years, there has been an 80% increase in mobile searches that include the word “best,” according to Google. Google attributes this increase to consumers using their mobile devices to research products before making a purchase.
This trend points towards an opportunity for brands to get their names on comparison sites that feature a list of the best brands in a particular industry or category.
2. People Are Also Looking for the ‘Worst’ Products
Users rely on the web for information to prepare themselves for purchase—for better and for worse. Google recently reported an increase of 150% in mobile searches ending with the words “to avoid,” alongside a growing trend in search of the phrase “is _____ worth it?”
Again, this data proves how important it is to make sure your brand comes up in just the right places.
3. Reviews are Sought, Read and Viewed
Customers want to dig deep and get full information about the product or service they’re considering. More users are searching for product reviews, 35% more in the past 2 years. Millennials are the most likely to use reviews, 78% of them read online reviews, with Gen Xers not far behind, with 72% of them reading up before making a purchase. And consumers aren’t just searching for reviews—they’re also watching. Viewers watched 50,000 years’ worth of videos with the word “review” in the title just in the past 2 years.
4. Users Rely on Search Results When Comparing Products
A study carried out last year found that when shopping online, 71% of customers first use a search engine to look for products and 74% use search engines to compare products. The study, carried out by Forrester Consulting, found that these searches included queries on specific brands, competitor searches, category searches, and tangential searches, for instance when someone is searching for a product in a specific field and is led to a similar product. For example, someone searching for a baby car seat and then being led to baby safety locks for cabinets.
Based on a survey of 999 online consumers, the study further found that 72% believed search results trustworthy and that 43% were influenced by a company’s posts on social media prior to purchase. What’s more, consumers who use search engines and social media are high-spending online consumers, according to the study.
How Do You Use These Search Insights to Better Results??
The increase in pre-purchase online research signals the growing reliance on mobile devices in day-to-day life. This presents an opportunity for marketers to interact with consumers and offer the information they need to make an informed decision, and help them feel confident about it. Here’s your action plan:
Manage your online presence in all phases of the customer’s journey
Users do their research before they reach a brand’s site or another point of sale. This pre-purchase phase is as much a part of the journey as any. With so much information available on search, marketers and sellers must make sure brands are present in every step of the funnel, not just in the final stage. Not only will these efforts respond to users’ needs, they will also better your chances against your competitors. You simply can’t afford to disregard the importance of being there when users are conducting their preliminary research.
For best results: offer your wares on 3rd party channels on top of your own
Seeing that users turn to search engine land to explore the options, you should expect that your customers will learn about you from a variety of channels run by 3rd parties. You no longer can rely exclusively on branded channels – the brand’s site, social media outlets, the company’s blog, etc. – to tell users about your offering.
Use comparison and review sites to offer users what they need
Comparison sites are attractive to users as they offer a treasure trove of information on many options in a particular field, enabling consumers to educate themselves and compare their options. To feel confident and informed, customers need to seek out information before they’re ready to interact directly with sellers. Reviews and comparative information are essential to this process.
Get seen when users search for ‘best’ or ‘top’
Comparison and review sites fare better among users in generic keyword searches, while in most cases, brands have better ownership of their own brand names in search. When users search for keywords prefixed with the word “best” or “top,” they are communicating a need and an expectation for authoritative recommendations offered by a 3rd party. This is a completely different mindset to when the same user searches for a particular brand or company name. When the users’ expectation for information from a 3rd-party is fulfilled, they are more likely to convert.
Mobile is playing an increasingly important role in the customer journey. Consumers use their devices to compare search and research, get in-depth information and measure products against their counterparts.
Comparison marketing efforts are a golden opportunity to help customers do their research—and for you to be there at the crucial moments leading up to a sale.
By proactively managing your presence on third-party sites, including those that offer comparisons and reviews you appear where your potential customers are looking. These sites can have an advantage over brand sites given they provide exactly what consumers are searching.
Adi Orzel is COO at Natural Intelligence, a leader in intent marketing that operates comparison websites that drive high-value customer acquisition for leading brands.