May 22, 2013, 9:24 AM

Search drives a higher percentage of traffic to Top 500 retailers

On average, 35% found a cataloger that way in 2012 compared with 29% in 2011.

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Consumers increased their use of search to find online retailers in 2012 from 2011, according to the Top 500 guide.

The percentage of shoppers finding an e-commerce site in 2012 via a search engine increased for all types of merchant tracked in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 guide.

That percentage increased for catalog and call center retailers as it did for the three other merchant types—consumer brand manufacturer, retail chains, and web-only retailers.

An average of 35% of visits to the e-commerce sites of catalog and call center retailers came from search engines, an increase from 29% in 2011.  Consumer brand manufacturers also averaged 35% in 2012, up from 28% in 2011. Retail chains averaged 38% in 2012, compared with 31% in 2011. Web-only retailers averaged 36%, an increase from 30% in 2011.

That’s an important metric because it helps retailers assess how much to invest in search marketing, says Experian Marketing Services, which measured the Top 500 retailers. “Since consumers are always (online) in today’s world, the ability to identify how marketing efforts in various channels directly impact sales and drive brand advocacy is critical to campaign success,” an Experian spokesman says.

A deeper dive into the data reveals more about how many consumers used search engines to find products on cataloger e-commerce sites. Among the nine catalogers selling computers and electronics, on average 41% of consumers used a search engine to find those sites in 2012.  That’s an increase from 37% in 2011.

At 44%, the 10 retail chains that sell computers and electronic derive the highest percentage of shoppers from search engines. That’s an increase from 37% in 2011. Next highest among retailers in this product category are the 15 web-only merchants at 38% in 2012, and 33% in 2011. Search engine shoppers averaged 35% for the 12 consumer brand manufacturers in this category, compared with 28% in 2011.

Among the 17 catalogers in the apparel/accessories category, 32% of their traffic came from search engines on average in 2012, compared with 26% in 2011. Consumer brand manufacturers in this category netted 37% in 2012, an increase from 29% in 2011. Retail chains were at 35%, compared with 26% in 2011, and web-only retailers came in at 27%, versus 22% in 2011.

Several factors likely have influenced the growth in shoppers coming from search engines in 2012 over 2011, says Experian. It could be better search engine marketing strategies by retailer, consumers doing more comparison shopping and an overall growth in search, Experian says.

Paid search, for example, is growing. According to online marketing firm The Search Agency overall U.S. paid search spending increased 21.6% in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The report gave no actual spending figures.

To read previous Top 500 Insider stories, click here.

More on these and other metrics and analysis is contained in The 2013 Top 500 Guide.

The 2013 Top 500 Guide is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order the brand-new 2013 Top 500 Guide is available here.

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