The results of two pieces of research based on comScore data show how important it is for marketers to build their knowledge of the role played by online research – and Search – in the buying process.

A three-month study by Yahoo! and comScore, reported by Chris Sherman of SearchEngineWatch, found that 45% of American internet users visit automotive websites.

Only 6% of these people are engaged in shopping behaviour but they account for 36% of total visits to auto sites. Of these engaged shoppers, 77% either bought a car or said they were planning on buying a car within a year although only 32% requested a quote on a specific model of car.

Herein lies a problem for automotive marketers if they are assessing the success of their online marketing efforts based purely on the number of online leads they get.

A sophisticated understanding of user behaviour – and marketing effectiveness by channel – is particularly crucial for car manufacturers and dealerships because of the way that so many people research online and buy offline when purchasing a car.

If there is an online advertising continuum with Direct Response marketing and Brand Advertising at opposite ends of the spectrum, then automotive marketers are typically operating somewhere in the middle. 

According to Chris Sherman: “Search marketers should evaluate all advertising and marketing programs (search ads, banners, email, print and television advertising) on the same playing field.”

A similarly sophisticated approach to online marketing is needed by marketers in the travel sector.

Another study by comScore, in conjunction with Yahoo! and Media Contacts, found that only 10% of online travel transactions linked to Search occurred immediately after the initial search referral.

The rest, considered latent purchases, took place in subsequent days and week, with 45% of purchases actually occurring more than four weeks later.

The implications of this research are summed up well by Ian Jindal who, writing for, said: “Retailers need to track carefully whether sales today are the result of previous site research or comparative activity.”

He added: “Working with your search provider to develop appropriate campaign management is therefore vital and the period for analysis should exceed the standard monthly cycle and look to quarterly analysis.”