No Real Surprises in the Latest iCrossing Study

iCrossing released the results of a new study conducted by Harris Interactive just before the holidays. The study looked at the role of online in the CPG market. A media release outlines the key findings, including:

  • Consumers look for CPG’s online, with 39% of US adults confirming they’ve conducted a search for CPG’s.
  • Women do this more than man. Footwear and apparel lead the categories searched for.
  • Online CPG searches often result in offline sales. Much of this activity is looking for sales or special offers at traditional bricks and mortar retail locations.
  • Activity is spread pretty evenly over search engines, retailer websites and manufacturer’s sites. Shopping engines and consumer information sites have substantially less traffic.

There are a few notable take aways here that speak to the future use of online. Most CPG’s have been slow to move to online as a marketing channel. The more commoditized the product, the less the online research activity, or so traditional marketing wisdom has told us. Certainly, CPG’s have been very slow to enter the search arena, yet the iCrossing study tells us that there is a significant portion of the consumer population are turning online to research these every day purchases.

To be honest, I think the study is probably underreporting the frequency of this. At Enquiro, we’re steering away from self reported survey based vehicles as a sole vehicle to look at search behavior, because we find that people have trouble recalling how often they use search and what they use it for. It’s become second nature for us to turn to online, and that in turn usually means search. So in a survey like the iCrossing one, memory lapses usually mean overly conservative numbers.

Another notable trend that would influence the findings are the increasing spread of high speed internet access. The likelihood of this CPG online activity happening is directly related to how handy a computer with an internet connection is. The more ubiquitous access is, the more we’ll do a quick look up on everything. About the only purchases I make now that I don’t do some form of online research about are groceries. And as local search becomes more robust, that will probably change too.

I’ve been predicting another surge of advertising dollars migrating into search over the next year or two. As we understand more how universal online research truly is, and how a lot of major advertisers are completely missing this very important touchpoint, more budget will find it’s way into search. While there are no real surprises in the iCrossing study, it’s good that major advertisers are continually reminded that they’re missing a rather large boat.

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