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2/24/2011
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Consumers Combine Search, Social Media For Purchasing Decisions

Nearly half of all consumers surveyed used a combination of search and social media sites before making a buying decision, GroupM Search and comScore report.

Consumers are using a combination of search engines and social media before making a purchasing decision, a new study by GroupM Search and comScore finds.

In fact, 58% of respondents first turned to search engines such as Google and Bing, while 24% visited company sites, and a mere 18% went to social media, according to a study called "The Virtuous Circle: the Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway". During the purchase process, 48% of shoppers used a combination of search and social media, the study found.

Four in 10 of consumers who first turned to search are then motivated to use social media to aid in their decision-making, while 46% of those who used social media then added search tools to their research equipment, according to the report.

"Advertisers continue to make big bets in search and social media. The insights taken from this research help us go beyond just the consumer's initial click to better understanding their purchase," said Chris Copeland, CEO of GroupM, in a statement. "When looking at the role these two channels play in conversion, we see a virtuous circle of interaction between search and social. Consumers are giving clear signals and the opportunity is greater than ever for brand marketers to shape the journey to purchase as a result of these new findings."

Shoppers typically turn first to search because of the technology's ease-of-use, the quality and scale of available information, and because of ingrained habits, the research found. Search also is seen primarily as a tool for pricing throughout the entire buying cycle; consumers also turn to search for product research and to decide where to buy an item, the report said. About one-fourth -- or 26% -- solely use search at the start of their research and shopping process, while 45% said they used search throughout the procedure, the research found.

But those who first turn to social media sites such as Facebook generally seek referrals, according to the study.

Social media plays an important role in raising peoples' awareness of alternate options, with 28% saying sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter help them learn about new brands and products, the study found. These tools also help consumers eliminate brands and products from consideration, based on feedback from friends, the report said. After all, getting others' opinion was the primary reason 31% of respondents gave for using social media as part of their decision-making tool bag, according to the study.

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