June 12, 2019
Customers are now using search for inspiration, not just answers
In the past, the way we searched and shopped for products was very different from the way we shop today. We generally trusted brick-and-mortar stores, relied heavily on word-of-mouth, and a good discount often got us over the line when it came to making a final purchase decision.
In just a matter of years, we’ve shifted from a linear, retail-focused model to today’s digital-centric model of customer behavior — and this has affected how customers make purchase decisions. Shopping behavior has evolved as browsing and discovery moves from the real world to online. This means that your customers are relying more on search, not just to look for a specific product but to look for ideas and inspiration before they’ve even figured out exactly what they want to buy.
How are customers using search?
According to Google’s Ads Research and Insights Group Marketing Manager Sara Kleinberg, customers are now hitting their search engines when they know they want something — but don’t exactly know what it is they want or where to start looking. Google discovered this insight when they noticed an increasingly amount of users searching for pre-set shopping lists or checklists. Let’s say a user is planning a wedding in Santorini. Knowing that someone else in the world had previously organized a wedding in the same location and has gone through the same — or similar — decision-making process, the user types “wedding Santorini checklist” in their search engine rather than starting from scratch to plan their dream wedding.
Similarly, a user may have a specific need. Let’s imagine they need to buy a gift for their friend’s baby shower, but this is the first time they’ve been invited to such an event and they also don’t have any friends with babies (yet). So they hit up their search engine and type in “gift ideas for a baby shower” to see what comes up.
What is causing this trend?
There are 2 factors responsible for this trend:
- Customers have a problem they’re trying to solve; and
- They’re browsing around for inspiration
Customers in the first group have a problem they want to solve. Regardless of whether they want to look polished at their best friend’s husband’s brother’s engagement party in Napa Valley or they want to know how to make their very first lasagne, they often don’t know where to begin. Subsequently, they run a broad search query to gather all the information available on the Internet, so they know they’re not missing out on anything before they start to narrow down their options.
Meanwhile, customers in the second group tend to be continually searching for things they may potentially want or need. So they use search to browse for ideas and inspiration. In some ways, this process can be considered “learning” rather than “shopping.”
What role has mobile played?
When a customer shops (or looks for ideas), their phone is now their go-to advisor — and the “always there” nature of mobile means that customers can act right there, right now including the moment when an idea comes to mind.
So, if a customer is at a store and a shiny new product catches their eye, they can simply pull their phone out of their back pocket or purse and learn more about the product just by doing a quick search. And if a customer has a passing thought while commuting to work or pounding the treadmill at the gym, they can whip out their mobile to explore that idea immediately instead of waiting until they’re sitting comfortably at their desk or at home (because let’s face it, there is a strong chance they’ll forget).
What does this all mean for marketers?
By having a better understanding of how your customers are using search, you’ll now have a greater opportunity to get into their consideration set. Think about all the open-ended discovery moments when a potential customer is searching for ideas online — and completely open to what is out there. Your goal now is to make your brand more visible and differentiated in this stage of the decision-making process.
For example, try incorporating checklists and shopping lists in your content marketing strategy to bring traffic to your website, and consider incorporating keywords relating to search queries in your copy as much as you can (for example, “Santorini wedding ideas”), while ensuring your content still flows naturally. We also recommend playing around with paid acquisition channels such as Google Ads and Facebook ads to bring your leads from search straight to your funnel. The following journey shows you how you can capture those engaged users on Facebook and convert them into leads thanks to the power of marketing automation.
At this stage of their decision-making process, your customers are looking for ideas — and smart marketers who can put their brands in the spotlight accordingly can turn this opportunity into a purchase.