Search Engines Preferred for Product Research

Just in case anyone out there was having a crisis of faith, the Opinion Research Corporation has good news for you: search engines are still the preferred method for conducting product/service research. In a survey of 736 adults released yesterday (PDF), ORC found that not only do most people prefer to use search engines for product research, they also read “online customer feedback” heavily.

That THAT, totally skewed Pew findings!

61% of respondents said they read “online reviews, blogs and other sources of online customer feedback before purchasing a new product or service.” Even more impressive, 83% said that “online product evaluations and reviews had at least some level of influence on their purchasing decisions.” (But only 32% reported posting online feedback themselves. Lazies.)

And it’s not just individual goods and services that people are researching: 70% looked for information on a particular brand of goods and services.

The survey also looked at where in the “funnel” this research was occurring. Most of us in the industry expect it research and reading online opinions to come in fairly early or midway through the purchase process. That wasn’t exactly the case: 38% first consult online reviews when they began their shopping research, but 27% turn to the Internet after narrowing it down to 2-3 choices, and “another 21% are at the narrowing down stage to confirm that they are buying the right product or service” (Not totally sure what that one means…)

ORC makes a sort-of plug for SEO here, which I’ll reiterate: people are turning to search engines to research and buy the products and services that you offer. Are they finding you? (It’s been a while, but I still remember the elevator pitch!)

ORC also hit on another important area that businesses need to watch in these findings:

“Businesses today exist in an era in which it’s nearly impossible to escape the likelihood of being
evaluated…there’s nowhere to hide,” said Linda Shea, SVP and Global Managing Director of Customer Strategies for Opinion Research Corporation. “Companies must be extremely mindful of the power of proliferating online forums and their ability to shape consumer’s perceptions about brands. Even a single negative review, when posted in a very public forum, can have a significant impact on a prospective buyer’s decision to purchase.”

*cough*cough*reputation management*cough*
expert*cough*Andy*cough*cough*Trackur*cough*. (Whoa, sorry ’bout those allergies!)

Finally, the last little tidbit: the most researched product and service categories were:

  • Travel/Recreation/Lesiure (82%)
  • Electronic goods (80%)
  • Household products/services (66%)
  • Clothing (55%)
  • Automotive (55%)
  • Personal care (40%)
  • Food (24%)



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