– Study Shows That Purchase-Related Searching Takes Place Long Before the Transaction and Generic Search Terms Dominate Purchase Related Research –

DoubleClick Inc. (NASDAQ: DCLK), the leading provider of marketing solutions for ad agencies, marketers and web publishers, today unveiled a new study, Search Before the Purchase, in conjunction with comScore and DoubleClick’s search marketing division, Performics, to demonstrate how consumers use search engines in the process of making purchases online.

The study, which analyses pre-purchase search activity across four categories (Apparel, Computer Hardware, Sports & Fitness and Travel), showed that roughly half of all online shoppers conducted related research at a search engine before making an online purchase. It also found that most searchers complete their purchase-related search activity weeks in advance of the purchase transaction. While it is widely accepted that searches that lead directly to a purchase are often brand-related search queries, the study shows that brand names of online retailers were in the minority of all the purchase-related searches made during their shopping research.

Key findings and takeaways of the study included:

Buyers conduct many related searches prior to a purchase

Overall, the study found that approximately one out of every two online purchases is preceded by research on a search engine. In the case of the travel segment, nearly three out of four travel buyers consulted search engines before making a purchase.

The number of searches prior to purchase varies by category - buyers on fitness/sports sites conducted 2.5 relevant searches in the 12 weeks preceding a purchase; apparel buyers made 4.7 relevant searches; computer hardware buyers, 4.9, and travel buyers averaged 6 relevant searches in the 12 weeks before their transaction.

Many buyers complete their relevant search activity well in advance of purchase
Although many marketers evaluate the success of search marketing programmes based only on clicks that lead to a purchase in the same session or perhaps within a few days, most buyers complete their purchase-related search engine research two or more weeks before they make a purchase online. For example, in the travel category, 54.7% of buyers' final searches occurred at least two weeks before the purchase event; 21.5% searched one week or more before purchase and only 23.8 % bought during the same session.

The majority of pre-purchase search activity (both searches and clicks) involves generic terms

Buyers clearly favour generic terms early in the buying cycle – for example, “running shoes,” as opposed to a merchant brand. Brand-specific searches accounted for only 18.1% to 28.5% of all searches those buyers conducted, depending on the respective purchase categories. Further, the study showed that a small minority of all the searches (4% or less for each category) were for "Brand + Item Searches"; that is, compound phrases that included a merchant's brands plus another term. Though the volume of searches on these Brand + Item terms is low, they do drive a comparatively high proportion of clicks per search, relative to Brand and Generic searches: for Apparel sites, only 1% of searches but 3.7% of clicks.

Branded terms dominate search activity closer to the purchase
While the majority of search activity across the full twelve weeks is generic, brand searches and clicks become more prominent close to the purchase, peaking in “same session” search activity (searches and clicks conducted in the same session as the purchase). For example, in the case of apparel buyers, 10% of all clicks occurred in the same session as the purchase, and 89% of these clicks included a merchant's brand (brand only or brand + item). Buyers in other categories followed similar though less extreme patterns: 9% and 54% for computer hardware, respectively, 9% and 49% for travel and 11% and 57% for sport & fitness. However, buyers converting from a branded search can mask the value of the prior generic searches in direct ROI analyses. This study shows that the generic terms that dominate related searches also lead to purchases and may provide an opportunity for marketers to influence consumers.

“The findings of this milestone study suggest to marketers that there is an opportunity to attract and engage searchers throughout the buying cycle, and not only with their own branded keywords,” said Stuart Larkins, Vice President - Partner Services, Performics, a division of DoubleClick. “Marketers should track search click-throughs for weeks prior to the purchase session to fully account for the longitudinal impact of generic keywords in search. Generic keywords provide greater reach for marketers and contribute to the overall lift in a search program.”

Using its proprietary panel of 1.5 million U.S. Internet users, comScore Networks identified people who made a purchase at one of 30 web sites in four vertical industries (Travel, Apparel, Computer Hardware or Sports/Fitness) in the month of September, 2004. Merchants were selected for a high volume of traffic and a homogenous set of products for sale. The population of the survey included people (“buyers”) who made a purchase at a target site. The survey tracked search activity - both searches and clicks - of the buyers for 12 weeks preceding the purchase (July - September 2004). Both searches and clicks include all relevant search activity of the buyers and is not limited to activity related to the 30 merchants in the four categories.

About DoubleClick Inc.
DoubleClick is the leading provider of solutions for advertising agencies, marketers and web publishers to plan, execute and analyse their marketing programs. DoubleClick’s marketing solutions – online advertising, search engine marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing, database marketing, and marketing resource management – help clients yield the highest returns on their marketing dollar. In addition, the company’s marketing analytics tools help clients measure performance within and across channels. DoubleClick Inc. has global headquarters in New York City and maintains 22 offices around the world.

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Emma Williamson
AxiCom (for DoubleClick)
020 8392 4077

Published on: 12:00AM on 2nd March 2005