In today’s online marketing world the term ‘search’ invariably refers to search engine optimization or search engine marketing or Google, or some other derivative. However, long before SEO and SEM search meant something more than just key words and pay per click.
As market researchers our interest is not in just ‘how’ a consumer or business client found us, but in their search process as a whole. The end of the process may have included a Google search, but that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It has been well documented in consumer behavior research that different types of goods and services require a different level of search commitment. The level of energy and time a consumer is willing to invest increases with the perceived risk associated with the purchase. Finding a restaurant for a quick meal may require a two-minute Google search whereas the purchase of a house, car, diamond ring, or deciding on competing job offers requires substantially more commitment.
If you survey your new customers it is critical that you dive into their purchase process. The marketers we support need to the “hows and whys” behind the purchase in order to maximize the marketing mix. Build these themes into your new-customer questionnaire:
- How they heard about you (advertising, search engine, recommendation from friend or colleague, etc.)? Why they chose you over the competition?
- What factors were behind their purchase?
- How long was their search process?
- Who, if anyone, influenced the final purchase (this could be internal (a salesperson) or external (spouse, children, colleague, HR director, etc.)).
Sure we need to know what terms consumers are using in their online search, however there is much more to the purchase decision than what they typed into their preferred search engine. We as B2B and consumer market researchers understand the process varies in time and commitment. Having a deep understanding of that process will allow us to increase the timeliness and relevance of our marketing messages.