Search + Social Media Increases CTR By 94 Percent: Report

A new report from agency GroupM and comScore details the degree to which search and social media have become intertwined in the purchase path that consumers take across the Internet. The report is a follow-up to a similar study done in 2009.

GroupM and comScore looked at consumer behavior associated with purchase decisions in the electronics/telecommunications and consumer packaged goods categories. They found that while search dominates social media among consumers making buying decisions — nearly 60 percent of cases that end in a purchase begin with search – social media play an increasingly important role during consideration and especially after a purchase is made.

The report found that “40 percent of consumers who use search in their path to purchase are motivated to use social media to further their decision making process.”

Social boosts search CTRs

The phrase “social media” as defined here includes blogs, consumer reviews, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

The consumer behavior revealed in the study is complex. However the report supports the idea that social media are now critical for product or brand awareness and drive related, subsequent search behavior. GroupM stated that “when consumers were exposed to both search and social media influenced by a brand that overall search CTR went up by 94 percent.”

As one might expect, the “the top motivation of consumers to use social media in their purchase process is to get other people’s opinion (31 percent).” Almost half of those converting in the study used both search and social media, while the other half used search alone.

Source: GroupM Search

Most people start with search

Most people start with search (58 percent vs. 18 percent for social media) and use it throughout the purchase process. However a sizable minority (26 percent) said they only use search at the beginning of their research and shopping:

  • Search is seen as the “pricing” tool throughout the buying cycle
  • Consumers turn to search to conduct product research and select a purchase location
  • 45 percent of people use it throughout, while 26 percent say they only use search at the beginning of their research and shopping process.

The report found that “28 percent of consumers said social media plays a valuable role in helping them become aware of new brands and products [and helped] eliminate brands from consideration for 30 percent of consumers.”

11 digital dance moves “from start to finish”

However the report also suggests that availability of increasing amounts of user-generated content and opinion may be elongating the purchase cycle. GroupM and comScore found that “the path to purchase is 60 and 57 days respectively from the first touch point, with up to 11 measured digital steps from start to finish.”

Here are more of the findings:

  • 58 percent of consumers start with search, outpacing company websites (24 percent) and social media (18 percent)
  • 40 percent of consumers who use search in their path to purchase are motivated to use social media to further their decision making process
  • 46 percent of consumers who use social media in the purchase pathway are driven to use search to expand their knowledge about their likely purchase

User reviews most important to consumers

The report said that the “top-performing” social media in terms of usage and reach during the purchase process were the following:

  • User reviews: 30 percent
  • Social networks: 17 percent
  • Video sharing: 14 percent
  • Twitter: 9 percent

GroupM also found that “category-specific blogs have a reach of 16 percent among consumers who use social media in making their purchase decisions.”

After a purchase the study found that 64 percent of consumers are likely to follow a brand. Furthermore, “74 percent of consumers use a Facebook brand page as the desired format for following a brand for future engagement.”

Postscript From Danny Sullivan: Speaking of search meeting social, Search Engine Land’s SMX West conference has a number of sessions on this topic, since they are becoming so intertwined. See my recent post: Exploring Social Meets Search.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: comScore | Stats: General | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Samuel Balsama

    Great data here that seems to further solidify the point that search is the sales tool while social is the customer service platform. I wonder how this may shift as Facebook begins to ramp up its site search as a viable engine for information retrieval? It’s obvious that the company would love more branded and keyword focused searches (search = ad revenue) and the goal, I’d imagine for Facebook, is to provide their users with a ecosystem for digital consumption. 2011 could be an interesting year in search!

  • Gareth Mee

    The research findings clearly illustrate the evolution of the consumer’s buying journey and the increasing role social media and search is now playing. For me, the most interesting finding is that “the top motivation for consumers to use social media in their purchases process is to get other people’s opinions (31%).”

    Recommendations have been a key feature on ecommerce websites for a number of years now, most notably on Amazon. However, it’s the power of recommendations from friends that retailers must look to harness next, and at nToklo we believe 2011 will mark a new era for online shopping.

    According to the 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, recommendations from personal acquaintances are the most trusted form of advertising (90%). Leveraging the social community for friend recommendations within the retailer site needs to be the next evolutionary step to further influence purchasing decisions.

    Gareth Mee
    CEO, nToklo

  • Kristine Schachinger

    Unless I read it wrong – as it is late at night – I have issue with this report because if you read how they defined “social media” they included user reviews which are not social media, but user generated content and so this would falsely skew the report to make it seem as though social has a much larger impact than I am sure it does. I would like to see what their data would say if they took out reviews. I would venture a guess that the effect of social would go way down.

    While I guess someone outside the industry could say – well reviews are social. We know that in an SEM study. we are looking to new measures of social media and reviews are not that.

  • Robbin Block

    Very interesting data, but as always, how you apply it depends on the nature of your business. What gets searched and where people go for information depends heavily on the type of product or service. Looking for a great movie idea, well a consumer may just come across that reading a friend’s wall. Shopping for toothpaste? Brand awareness is going to come into play when they’re in the store. When seeking a dentist, they’re more likely to ask a close friend or family member, rather than do a general search and/or ask your online network.

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