Monday, April 16, 2012

Why People Don't Start Product Research on Google

I recently embarked on a journey to purchase a new home/home office telephone. I hadn't bought one in a long time and wasn't really aware of all the latest features out there. I just wanted a good phone that was clear, had a solid speakerphone, and at least one wireless handset. But I didn't have any idea of what brands were good these days and quite frankly, didn't know where to start.

Well, I knew where I did NOT want to start --- by walking into an office supply or consumer electronics big box retailer! Instead, like most people these days, I wanted to start my research online. I thought for a sec about what to type in my browser's address bar, and then it dawned on me. I'm going to check Surprised I didn't say I Googled it?

I realized that I have been conditioned to start many of my product research on for several reasons. I typed in a broad search term like "telephone" on and this is why I was well on my way to finding my new phone.

1. Amazon Best Sellers Rank - Filtering results by popularity in the relevant product category quickly lets me see what the top selling products on Amazon are to limit my consideration set.

2. Customer reviews and ratings - No surprise here. Amazon is famous for this. I love reading reviews, but I use the star ratings to further limit my choices. Quickly.

3. Product images on search results page - Amazon's search results layout, typically 3 items per row, includes a big product image, product title, price, and star rating for each product. This is great for quick "window shopping." In searching for a phone, it gave me a quick way to see the latest range of phone designs.

4. Refined search on the left nav menu - There is a multitude of product category-specific filters to refine your search.

At this point, Amazon has done a great job for someone who had no idea, like me, where to begin to easily narrowing down my consideration set to a handful of products. While Google's Shopping tab is trying to replicate a lot of the e-commerce features I've listed to feel like a retail site like Amazon, it is sub-optimal because it is still based on a SERP (search engine results page) model really.

See for yourself. Below is a search for "telephone" on Amazon compared to "telephone" on Google Shopping. product search page

Google Shopping page
I started asking my friends about what they do. Not everyone is like me. Some do like going to brick-and-mortar stores still for "showrooming." And others still start with Google. But I saw a recent Forrester study that showed 30% of Americans BEGIN their research for online purchases on! The data further showed search engines got 13%. While Google is trying to build out its Shopping section, it's now clear why Amazon beats search. Google is really good at searching when you know what you're looking for because it's good for long-tail queries. Amazon is great at letting you browse and discover product ideas in order to narrow your search! And let's not  forget its awesome recommendation engine!

Disclaimer: I do not own shares of stock, and they are not my client.


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