Google’s Toy Study Exposes Complex Consumer Purchase Path

Marketers have long known that the path to purchase is typically a complex one that involves multiple media. A new study from Google and Compete reinforces this and shows transparently how consumers (shopping for toys) use multiple media and, increasingly, multiple screens to make buying decisions. Compete surveyed consumers who had “researched or shopped for toys online within the past 6 months” between July and September, 2011.

Although there are some unique aspects of toy shopping (i.e., the influence of children) most of the takeaways and data can probably be generalized to product shopping as a whole. The following are the general findings of the study:

  • Two-thirds of toy gift givers are influenced by children and they use an average 3 online resources to shop
  • Shoppers exposed to TV ads and Circulars turn to online research within 1 week
  • Nearly half of buyers use 5+ sites and half of buyers research up to 2+ weeks prior to conversion
  • 30% of toy shoppers only search on toy category terms but majority search on retailer terms
  • Nearly 1 in 5 toy shoppers use mobile to shop and search is their #1 activity

These data obviously help Google make the case that online and search in particular are critical parts of the consumer purchase process. Putting that aside, however, the study is more interesting as an argument about how marketers truly need a multi-pronged strategy that includes traditional media, search, display, mobile and reviews/social.

There’s way too much data in the study to expose it all in this post. However I’ll pull out a few key bits of information that illustrate the broad points above.

While Google and Compete discovered that two-thirds of toy purchases (among this respondent pool) were influenced by online, there are surveys that show higher percentages than this. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of online users tap the internet for product research before buying (north of 80 percent according to multiple sources).

Google found that most people shopped at home and almost everyone at some point used PCs. But a meaningful percentage of people (18 percent in this study) also used smartphones and/or tablets as part of their research process, some of which occurred “on the go.”

Google also found, as have several studies in the past, that traditional media drove people online to do more research. TV, outdoor, magazines, radio and newspaper ads all showed up as influential. Specifically retailer circular and TV ads drove consumers online within the same week to do further research on the advertised toys.

As mentioned above, Google also found that 74 percent of these shoppers used at least two sites and almost 40 percent used five or more sites to conduct their research.

The report drills down into the relative influence of paid and organic search on conversions and the influence and frequency of different types of keywords (brands vs. product categories) used by consumers to search for toys. Display ads also had an impact as did product reviews, which were influential for both online and mobile shoppers.

The “big takeaway,” as I’ve already stated, is that consumers now use numerous media and resources to get more information about products. Multiple media categories came into play in this study’s purchase scenarios (traditional, online, mobile) as well as multiple categories of sites. Search was central and influential but clearly not the only tool being used.

Reaching consumers at all these touchpoints becomes increasingly complex for marketers, as does the project of figuring out which channels actually had greater influence over purchase decisions and conversions. To say “you’ve got to do it all,” doesn’t seem very useful — but it nonetheless appears to be true.

Character images © Disney/Pixar 

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Features & Analysis | Google | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Online Behavior | Top News

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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.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/kevingamache Kevin Gamache

    How does the pie chart equal more than 100%? Tag wrong or wrong type of graph? Just curious.

  • Anonymous

    Hair bow wholesale — http://www.janecrafts.com

  • http://twitter.com/Musiccyclone1 Musiccyclone

    Very nice information…….

  • Greg Sterling

    Bad chart choice. People do multiple things. Shouldn’t have been a pie chart. I’ll replace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mizan-Mishad/100000897175674 Mizan Mishad
  • Anonymous

    how can i make money from online.
    http://www.bdlifeline.com

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