Internet search engines will have to find new business models if the trend toward fewer customers cruising the web for products holds, says Charles Curtis, chairman and CEO of researchers/consultants Valentine Radford Inc. Valentine Radford’s most recent iQuarter Customer Observer survey of 5,000 online consumers showed a marked trend toward more directed use of the web for shopping and purchasing and less random searching.
The percentage of consumers who go online very often or often to conduct product research fell to 67% last August from 79% in August 2000, Valentine Radford reports. Similarly, those who search the web for price information very often or often fell to 60% from 79% two years earlier.
Among steps that search engines could adopt would be to offer advertising such as badges or banners that are related to search results. Thus a customer would get not just a search link to click on but an ad as well. Another technique would be to allow customers to create a My Stores personalized section that would appear whenever they log onto a search site. A further approach would be to present consumers with a variation on retailers’ customers-who-bought-that-also-bought-this merchandising technique. In that scenario, search engines would present customers with a message that says “People who shopped there also shopped here.”
“We’re just seeing this trend so it’s not going to crater their revenue overnight,” Curtis says. “But they need to be thinking of new business models.”