American Marketer


Search and social media are sales drivers: study

March 7, 2011


Social media pages must be up to parSearch and social media pages have become an essential part in the purchase pathway for consumers.

A study by GroupM Search and comScore found that almost 60 percent of all consumer journeys that end in a purchase begin with a search. Consumers are likely to use a combination of search and social media in their path to purchase as opposed to just search.

“I think what we affirmed in this study is that search and social media shape the way purchasing decisions are made,” said Chris Copeland, CEO of the Americas at GroupM Search, St. Louis, MO. “We are seeing that both channels are being used as a confirmation vehicle.”

GroupM Search is the search marketing specialist division of GroupM, the media buying and planning firm.

ComScore provides Internet audiences reports of media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power by using financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers.

The study was conducted using both behavioral and survey analysis of consumers from conScore’s panel of more than 1 million Internet users in the U.S.

For the survey portion of the research, respondents consisted of consumers who made a purchase in the three months prior to the survey and used search and/or social media in the process.

The research was conducted between April and November 2010.


The GroupM Search report found that social media is not yet a stand-alone outlet for a consumer during a purchasing-decision process.

The study further reveals that social media is vital in awareness of new brands or products and the consideration phase, while search enables consumers to conduct product research.

Most consumers start with a search in the purchase process. Forty-five percent of people use search throughout the purchase process.

Luxury brands need to think about how and where to provide the best product content because search continues to make a compelling case as a driver of future purchase decisions.

Worth noting is that 76 percent of consumers who are starting with either search or social media are signifying intent to explore and potentially buy without commitment to a brand at the outset, according to the study.

Social media

If search is an essential part for the pricing component of a buying decision, then social media is its side-kick in the selection process.

“I think there are two key statistics that speak to luxury advertisers,” Mr. Copeland said. “A third of all people are eliminating purchases from brands as a result of social media.

“Additionally, 53 percent of all people said social media changed their perception of a brand they were considering and the way they intended to buy,” he said.

“Social media changes the perceptions of brands. Brands have to be there in a way consumers would like you to be there.”

One of the most surprising findings of the study are the types of social networks consumers use to find information. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are synonymous with social media.

However, when it comes to the purchase decision, 30 percent of consumers look at user reviews as a search option.

Social networking such as Facebook, video sharing on YouTube and Twitter all reported to bring less value to consumers.

Luxury brands should not think of social as a passive tool because it is an active-decision-making process tool for affluent consumers.

“56 percent of respondents said social media pages changed their perception of the brand,” Mr. Copeland said. “Social media is a place where people go to explore brands, especially in the luxury sector.”

After a consumer makes a purchase from a brand, 64 percent of them said they are likely to follow a brand via social media and indicate aspirations for connections and content from a brand in the space, according to the study.

“Luxury brands have to make an investment in the creative assets of their social media pages to create a great experience,” Mr. Copeland said. “Forty percent of all young males surveyed expect to get information via YouTube.

“If luxury brands are trying to reach a younger audience, they must have a video page,” he said. “Consumer review sites as well as category-specific blogs are extremely important in the luxury space.

“We see this as the No. 1 way of people to make a purchase.”

Final take

Search and Social Integration, the Essential Insights, by GroupM