Shopping no longer means packing the kids into the car and heading off to the mall on a weekend. Shopping today, according to a study by Google and Shopper Sciences, involves consumers using an average of 10.4 sources for information prior to purchasing. This number has risen from 5.3 sources over the past year.

Dividing the purchasing decision into three stages, the survey looked at mediums that consumers access and interact with at each stage.

The first stage, where consumers are stimulated by push-marketing mediums, the study found that TV advertising and direct mail like catalogues and brochures impacted 37% and 31% of contributors respectively. Other mediums performed as follows:

  • Newspaper ads and inserts: 29%
  • Newspaper editorial: 28%
  • Magazine editorial: 27%
  • Magazine advertising: 24%
  • Emails from brands or manufacturers: 23%
  • Online advertising: 22%
  • Product placement on TV shows: 21%
  • Outdoor advertising: 16%

The second stage, which the study titled the ‘Zero moment of truth’, constituting of activities directly undertaken by the study’s participants, showed that 50% engaged in information search on the internet before making purchases, and 49% spoke to friends and family. Out of the 50% who logged online:

  • 38% compared goods online
  • 36% visited official websites
  • 31% read user reviews
  • 22% visited ecommerce sites
  • 18% opted to become a ‘fan’ of the brand’s Facebook or Twitter platform

The final stage of purchasing is the purchasing made physically at bricks and mortar stores, where:

  • 41% examined packaging
  • 37% read pamphlets and brochures
  • 33% spoke to salespeople
  • 30% looked at signage
  • 19% sampled goods

The numbers of online interaction rose to 97% when the survey participants were researching for automobile purchases, 94% in assessing insurance, and 91% for banking.

The study also revealed that while 82% of 18-34 year olds turned to push-marketing mediums on the purchasing journey, 91% of them actively engaged in online research and word of mouth recommendations.

Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president of the global marketing group at Johnson & Johnson said: “We’re entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that’s useful or helpful to their lives”.

With all these numbers and trends, it is inevitable that marketers must target their communications to their consumers at the various stages effectively.

Nikolai Pitchforth, industry head of online travel and migration at Google Australia advised that advertisers can learn to use search trends to see what’s on people’s minds. “This data is readily accessible and it can help you eliminate the guesswork in your marketing programs – its like having your own barometer for consumer behaviour”.

Google’s free tool, Google Insights for Search, allows users to pick up on popular search terms and also online destinations that consumers are heading to for information.

Additionally, Pitchforth also suggested that marketers take note of peak times for certain queries as a method of planning campaigns ahead of time and spending marketing budget during timely seasons.