In this article, I am going to be talking about some new studies and reports that have been made available. I do not want to bore you with a bunch of numbers and statistics, but sometimes by looking at the numbers, we can realize certain areas that we can improve on for online businesses and realize areas that we do well in. We can give ourselves a big pat on the back and feel good about ourselves.
The first thing I want to talk about was done by comScore which is sponsored by Google. Now they examined the search behavior of 83 million Americans that were conducting over 552 million searches. They did this within 11 product categories and they were using either one or more of 24 different search engines, which by the way included the three major search engines, which were Google, MSN and Yahoo.
Now in their findings, they found out that out of those people that were doing search related purchases, 63 percent ended up buying their purchases offline and the other 37 percent ended up completing their purchases online. So you can see by this study that most people end up buying their products offline in a brick and mortar store, but 37 percent is still pretty good and that is nothing to squawk at. In fact, even though 37 percent may seem like a low number, the people that are making online purchases is increasing and at a very dramatic rate each and every year.
The Department of Commerce recently stated that the total eCommerce sales for 2005 were $86.3 billion and that is an increase of 24 percent over 2004. A 24 percent increase in one year for people that are making online purchases! Wow! That is actually a very big number, a very dramatic increase. Can you imagine if we continue with the trend this year and have another 24 percent increase of people that are buying online? That is very good news for us as online business owners.
This study also found out that most people do not buy right away. In fact most people like to shop and compare when searching for products to buy on the Internet. The study found out that over half of the online holiday buying activity occurred in multiple or subsequent Internet sessions. So this is a strong trend known as latent buying, where people will first go on the Internet to do their research or browsing and then they will go on the Internet at a later date to actually purchase the product online.
In fact there are three phases that people go through when they end up buying a purchase online. The first phase is called the browsing phase. And I will just use myself for this example. I was actually recently going on the Internet to look for a new digital camera and I went through these three phases without even knowing it.
The first phase is the browsing phase: In this phase a person would just go on the Internet to find general information about the product that he is searching for. In my case, I was looking to buy a digital camera. So I was browsing on the Internet to find out what brands there are and what models of digital cameras there are. I was trying to find out what features digital cameras have now and what can be included in different digital camera products and that is what most people go through in Phase 1, where they just browse to find the general information about features, details, uses of the product that they want to buy and see what brand names are out there for it.
Then is Phase 2: That is called the compare phase. Once they have all of their information about the different features of the brands, then they compare the details from brand to brand or from model to model of the product that they are thinking about buying. In my case, with a digital camera, when I went into Phase 2 to compare digital cameras, I looked at different brands and compared one brand of digital camera to another to see if one had better features than another camera or see what the price was. I went through different web sites and shopping comparison search engines, to see if I could find the lowest price and the best features and the best quality. So that is Phase 2 and that is called the comparison phase, where people actually compare prices, they compare features and quality of specific models and brands.
And then comes Phase 3, which is the most important phase. That is called the buying phase. That is where they actually make the purchase online. Now for an online business, it is very important for us to be accessible and available for all three of these phases. You want the search engine visitors to come to our web site at all three of those phases, so that they can get use to seeing our web site and the products that we offer.
So for Phase 1, during the browsing phase, you want to make sure that we have a large list of general keywords that related to our web site or products that we offer. These will just be general keywords. Now for Phase 2, the comparison phase, you want to make sure that you have more narrowed key words for your web site and your products. You want to include keywords that include the model names, or the brand names of the products or services that you offer and for Phase 3, you want to have extremely narrowed keywords that related to your web site or products and in Phase 3, you want to include the particular name of your web site or the particular exact name of the product or service you offer.
Now there was another study done by WebSide Story that was done that is very enlightening and shows that eCommerce sites can dramatically increase their sales conversion rate by simply just adding a search box to their web site. Now you might be thinking, duh, you know that is a no-brainer. Of course you want to add a search box to your web site and make your web site searchable, but there are a lot of eCommerce web sites that, believe it or not, do not have a search function for their web site. Now the study done by WebSide Story showed that in 2005 the web sites that had a search box on their web site, their sales conversion rate was 2 1/2 times more than the web sites that did not have a search box for their web site. So you can instantly increase your sales conversion rate by 2 1/2 times by simply putting a search box on your web site. Which is very easy to do and there are lots of tools that you can use to make your site searchable to your visitors.
So with all of this in mind, you might be asking yourself, “what is the future of eCommerce”? eCommerce has been around for a very long time. It has been around since the inception of the Internet itself. And just like the Internet, eCommerce has been evolving and changing over the years and there have been some great advances in eCommerce in the way that online purchases are made. The process now is very smooth and easy, compared to what eCommerce used to be like in the beginning of the Internet. But, as we have seen from these studies, we see that online shoppers are very much search driven and they use search engines the majority of their time to find the products that they want to buy online. So along with that, the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and now MSN are always trying to improve their search engine so that it is more user friendly and their visitors have a better user experience. So to go along with that, they are always trying to give their users more details about your web site and about the products you sell.
Now as time goes on, Google and the rest of the search engines are going to want more and more details about your products and web sites, such as maybe you daily and even your hourly inventory of the products that you have on hand, your hours of operation or maybe what options you offer for your products. There are even some eCommerce web sites that offer in-store pickup, where someone can buy their product online and then they can just go drive down to the brick and mortar store and pick it up whenever they want. There are not very many sites using that, but the sites that are using that option are reporting a good increase in their online sales.
So the search engines are getting exact details about your products, such as your inventory levels, would require technology to step up to the plate, so to speak. There would be a lot of pressure on technology systems to be fed to the search engines, the POS information, the Point of Sale information or the item location information of your products. Now such a system will take probably years to implement, because data sharing is a huge obstacle when it comes to search engines and online retailers. Nevertheless, eCommerce is constantly changing and evolving and so is the Internet itself and the online businesses that are going to end up ahead are the ones that will change and evolve right along with them.