The comScore-Overture Study: Findings and Implications

Event: Kelsey Group Drilling Down on Local Search 2005

Session Title: The comScore-Overture Study: Findings and Implications

Session Date: April 19, 2005

Session Time: 10:00 am – 10:45 am

Session Description:
The widely publicized findings of a seminal comScore-Overture study will be explored in depth. The study found that 25% of search engine users ultimately purchased a consumer electronics product and that 92% of those purchases were offline. Generic search terms drove more than 70% of the volume, while trademarked terms were responsible for 20% and product terms the final 10%. Though the generic terms drove most of the volume, the more specific terms revealed consumers who were closer to a purchase decision. The study challenges conventional assumptions about consumer behavior and suggests important changes that will likely occur in search. Those shifts will have implications for other online media as well as the local marketplace.

Session Participants:
Anne Frisbie, Senior Director, Category Initiatives, Overture
Chris Henger, VP, Marketing & Product Development, Performics
Sarah Stevens, comScore Networks
Kevin M. Ryan, Search Editor, iMedia Communications
Christopher Skinner, Managing Partner, MakeBuzz

Related Posts: buzzhit!’s Drilling Down on Local Search 2005 Index Page

Session Details[*]:

Stevens presenting buying data…

– Search nbehavior for 10 specific products
– Time-aligned 3 months
– Global panel of 2MM consumers

– 7% ltent online conversion
– 1% same session online conversion
– 92% offline conversion
– 25% total conversion

– 35% 30 days conversion
– 18% 60 days conversion
– 20% 90 days conversion

– 57% general terms
– 11.7% specific terms
– 14% header terms
– remainder trademark product

– 84% of all trademark conversions were influenced by broad terms during their first search. Loinking standard search with Local

Q: Can I make the statement that 92% of searches are local?

Skinner: Yes, you can. 98% of our retail economy is offline… so search must be driving offline, because it’s not happening anywhere else

Frisbie: It really varies by category. If people want to buy tires or cars, it may be offline. If people are buying flowers and shipping them, it’s probably more biased toward online.

Henger: There is a lifecycle of searching before purchase. People aren’t necessarily looking for local places to buy, but that’s a result of the online search activity.

Ryan: Data will be more meaningful when we can break this down by category

Q: Search has always been considered directional, but this data indicates otherwise

Henger: The share volume of generic searches doesn’t totally surprise; more terms. But what really took place before purchase is a big shift to the brand terms. The general search appears to be influencing the volume and ROI of brand terms

Ryan: Sure, you get 4000% return on the brand term, but would that search have occurred had you not been a part of the general term. You must attribute some of the ROI to the general terms. Also interesting that the latency in purchases means that 30 day cookies are a bad idea

Frisbie: Search will prove to be an even stronger direct marketing vehicle, but clearly there’s more complexity in understanding its role and impact

Skinner: A lot of the trillion dollars in advertising influences (and even generates) the generic searches (and terms)

Henger: Search is a complimentary medium in the awareness phase (to broadcast et al); the question is are you there during the consideration phase of the buying cycle.

Q: Search isn’t a medium that subsitutes for others, rather it complements, sitting in the middle; it’s a purchase funnel enabler.

Skinner: In broad terms, yes. It depends on the industry. My question would be, “do you think a competitor for Ann Taylor or Bose be created strictly by buying search terms”

Henger: I think they would have a lot of trouble. There’s clearly a branding element to search, but I wouldn’t want to be the CMO competing with Ann Taylor and only having SEM as my option

Ryan: Advertising didn’t build Bose. “The best speakers ever built” built Bose; quality of product and service

Stevens: Searchers do go online for research and education, which means awareness and branding

Q: There’s an enormous amount of Tail inventory. People are only willing to look at the first page of results, which only has 3-5 slots. Doesn’t that favor people who can afford to buy in (national buyers); doesn’t that crowd out the small local businesses?

Skinner: Make search a three panel/column result set. The little guys, maybe part of local search, should be in the middle column

Frisbie: I don’t know user design… but we want to provide consumers with the results they want. Right now, in many categories, consumers want local listings. We’re spending a lot of resources trying to figure out how to best service in this area, including providing opportunities to offline stores to get in front of search users

Q: Do we have a situation evolving where a vertical directory (, is the place where the local advertiser ultimately resides, and that directory buys the general or category term, because they can compete with the national advertisers

Henger: That’s what exists at shopping comparison shops right now. Most of them are the biggest buyers on Google and Overture.

Ryan: Amazon is becoming a shopping destination not just for Amazon, but for hundreds of stores. They’re buying any terms that relate to almost anything that might be sold on their platform

Frisbie: We’re still in kindergarten. We need to figure out together how to provide consumers what they want, when and where they want it.

Skinner: When things go multi-channel, where search gets credited for offline transactions, the PPC explodes. But few marketers will know that, and fewer will have the resources to measure and tweak

Q: Doesn’t all of this become impossibly complicated for the local advertiser who doesn’t have the same sophistication as the national players?

Henger: How do small businesses compete with players today, and how does that transcend online? Do they have unique products? Do they do event marketing?

Frisbie: The mass merchants are struggling with creating loyal customers; small businesses have tremendous community standing.

Henger: Clearly small businesses can’t compete on price; they have to involve the community

Audience Q (and comment): We seem to be struggling to find a one size fits all answer; but this is a target audience and segmentation question.

Q: But isn’t scale built on automation and do a degree, one-size fits all implementation?

Ryan: Small biz need an intermediary like an Amazon who has the resources to act as a proxy

Frisbie: It’s not a one size fits all. Eventually, we’re going to know who you are and what you’ve been doing. Because of that we’ll be able to offer you better advertising

Audience Q: Won’t the search curve, or Tail, evolve over time (next 5-10 years) as tail terms become more common, and how will that change search and local search?

Frisbie: I believe we setup a myth that consumers are really dumb and just put in one word; it’s just because they’re new that the use one word. In reality, the people doing product specific searches have done research elsewhere and are using limited words. Consumers are very happy with search, being able to look at the full consideration set, so that they don’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of.

Henger: Two things to think about 1) volume of activity on Tail is very low, but we are seeing a decent lift in conversion on those longer terms. The question becomes what’s involved in building out that Tail.

Ryan: I think that 98% number is crap. I think we’ve programmed people to think search engines are stupid. Try to do some natural language searches; you can’t find what you’re looking for. People have to do a half dozen searches across four search engines to reach that “level of happiness”.

Stevens: I think some of our data shows that consumers have advanced; people using local search modifiers. The specificity of search terms has changed; people are using more tokens per query. Users are getting smarter.

* These are raw, unproofed notes taken in real-time. Nothing attributed to any speaker should be assumed to be an exact quote. Rather, my goal was to capture and communicate the essence of what was said. If there is a significant mistake, please post a comment or email me; I will make a correction at my earliest opportunity.

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