July 18, 2012

Search Myths: Loyal Buyers

You have to run this query.

What percentage of customers who are placing their fifth, sixth, seventh, ... , one-hundredth order are purchasing via Search?

Now, if you're a cataloger, and this percentage is a high percentage (say 15%), you have a whole bunch of explaining to do.

Why would a customer who has purchased from your brand five times use Search as part of the purchase process?

One camp will say that Search, among better customers, becomes a navigational tool.  "They can't remember our brand name, or they forget how to spell it", that's what we tell ourselves.  Except, that doesn't pass the smell test, does it?  Because if that customer is such a loyal buyer, then that customer has a catalog sitting right next to her, and on that catalog, we print our brand name, we offer URL information.


If you are a catalog marketer or an email marketer (hint, that's everybody), then the branded search hypothesis among loyal buyers fails the smell test.

Your loyal customers are using search to comparison shop, or to obtain supplemental information, or to find a promo code, aren't they?

That's not good, and that's not bad.

It is simply the reality of a customer in 2012.  She has a myriad of tools that she uses to conduct research.  This is how Jennifer behaves.


  1. Hi Kevin

    Back in 2008 (http://bit.ly/NCwHwR) I started noticing this "navigational" use of search engines (we're still polite enough not to plainly say Google). I have seen it confirmed (mainly by examining brand-related search terms, when it is not squarely the actual www.brand.com that's "searched") with many sites ever since.

    Is seems that many users do it in order to go back to sites they've already been to, because they know that typos don't matter in Google, whereas typing the domain name in the browser URL field will get you nowhere if you make a mistake (except for Chrome in which the URL field is the search one too). Add to this that just typing the brand name without bothering with the www&com will get you there as well. Contrary to what many people thought in the past, the user doesn't mind an extra click if it's efficient.

    I haven't exactly done a rigorous survey, but I have asked many people (workshops, conferences, etc.) if they bookmark or use the URL field anymore, and almost nobody raises their hand.

  2. If you are a cataloger, as are most of my clients, then this creates a problem. If we believe that this is a navigational issue, then there is a big problem ... because the catalog is allegedly sitting right next to the customer, and would alleviate any navigational problems.

    Here's the problem.

    (1) If it is being used for navigational issues, then the catalog is being completely ignored.

    (2) If the catalog is not being ignored, then all the information to navigate the site is readily apparent and known by the customer, invalidating the navigational issue.

    One of the two has to be true. Catalogers won't like either answer.

  3. I'm not so sure if the catalog is being ignored. I think (haven't tested it) that many people would use Google to get to the site, even if they have the catalog next to their computer. It is just how many of them get to sites they know nowadays. I have noticed that vanity URLs (specific domains for a campaign, or the wwww.abcbrand.com/specifipage) work better than they used to (meaning people will type it completely instead of pressing "enter" right after the .com). However, some will still use Google anyway (look at how many visits from Org Search that are the actual address).

    I guess there's a very interesting test right there.


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