Search and Social are More Integrated in Purchase Decisions than Ever

Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Sarah Soteroff

comScore and Group M published a report this week about the relationship between search and social media in the purchase cycle of a motivated buyer. This joint study explored how search impacts those who are at the buying stage in their purchase cycle. The findings showed that most people turn to search to help them make their decisions and then turn to social media to discuss their purchases. The research also showed that 60% of buyers who search prior to purchasing end up making a purchase. Purchase decisions, it would seem, are directly influenced by the quality of searches that are conducted.

Today, social media’s influence extends far beyond the research stage. Social media has proven important in the retail cycle, perhaps most significantly during the period after a buyer makes a purchase. It is on social media that he or she promotes or denounces the product, speaks about the customer service experience and allows his or her network of followers to speak candidly about their own experiences. The first place that most searchers are going to review a product is not the traditional channels of company-promoted user reviews; they’re heading to their computers and to their smartphones to chat about the product. They want unfiltered reviews from others who have used the product. What this means for marketers is that they cannot afford to ignore what is being said about their brand online. Potential customers are directly impacted by the real life experiences of similar buyers.

As the cycle goes, most people begin with search to learn basic facts about the product and then turn to social media to compare similar products. Marketers can attempt to control public opinion by responding to consumer reviews, or they can react by showing an understanding of this sphere. They should engage with their customers on all levels by not projecting stale messaging and by allowing an active conversation surrounding their product to thrive, positive or negative.

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