August 27, 2012, 3:48 PM

Product research starts at Google and Amazon

Online consumers rely on those sites more than stores for product information.

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When it comes to making a purchasing decision, consumers turn to Google Inc. for help. 20% of online consumers say they consider most helpful when they are making a decision to purchase a product or service, according to an online survey of 2,400 adults conducted by Forrester Research Inc. However, Inc., the No. 1 e-retailer according to the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is nipping at Google’s heels, with 19% of consumers saying they find it most helpful.

Google and Amazon were the top two answers selected among a mix of online and offline research sources. Online resources took eight out of the top 10 spots, with only traditional stores (12%) and friends and family (4%) representing the offline world in the list. However, traditional retail stores are still the places consumers say they are most likely to make a purchase. 67% of consumers in the survey say they’re highly likely to buy a product or service at a store in the next three to six months, and 58% say they’re highly likely to buy online from a web site they access from a desktop or laptop computer.

 “Shopper marketers must think of their digital properties as a mechanism by which to drive consumers to the store and improve the in-store experience,” write Corinne Madigan and Tracy Stokes in the report, “The Role of Digital in the Path to Purchase.”

The authors further detail how online consumers conduct product research on and offline. They consider more than half (54%) of U.S. online consumers as “digital researchers;” these are consumers who primarily rely on the web for product research. 28% are considered “balanced researchers,” meaning they use a mix of online and offline resources, and 18% are considered “analog researchers,” meaning they primarily use offline resources, such as print and radio, to help them research products.

Knowing which researcher category a consumer falls into helps predict whether the consumer will buy online or offline. 72% of digital researchers prefer to buy online. Balanced researchers lean slightly toward buying online, at 55%, while 55% of analog researchers prefer stores.

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