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The Three Stages of Product search !

Continuing from my last blog piece “Is Vertical Search going to overpower Google ?”, mostly all among other means, search engine use historical knowledge of search terms and current search queries to show ads. Google & other search engines are constantly adapting the latest methods and analysing search data to assess search behavior in order to serve more relevant ads to each user.

Searchers or Researchers tend to search for products in three different ways:

1) Initial Search – the quest begins. The most common behavior is to start the journey by visiting the core search engines (Searches made on search engines Google, Bing & Yahoo, are commonly known as core search). At this stage, the queries are typically generic in nature e.g. “best hotel in Mumbai” or “cheap mobile phone”. Customers at this stage are not planning to make any purchase, they are just researching or getting to know their options before they actually purchase.

2) Specific Search – At this stage, the consumers who have been exploring the options on the core search engines, look for other options usually vertical search sites e.g. eBay or Amazon. Mostly, this takes place after the initial search activity, but a major chunk of the follow-up searches are shifting their base from initial to specific over the years. The rise in specific searches is mainly due to the rise of smartphones ( as mentioned in my previous blog), Apps are in a way Google’s biggest threat. This gradual shift in search pattern has enabled the advertiser to influence consumers’ brand preferences before they make their final decision.

3) Revised Search – This is a rare type of search occurrence, which is starting to mushroom. Consumers here return to Google, with the revised search query, based on the information they have collected across all types of initial, vertical & app searches. E.g. “Best mobile phone” search has been revised to a much specific term like “Samsung Galaxy S4″. This kind of specific search happens when a consumer has done some research across multiple sites. By this phase, the re-targeting window for trying to influence a consumer has already passed.

The precise time to reach such a consumer is during the initial search stage, followed by a specific search ( this would depend on how far the searcher is during the purchase funnel ). The only way to grab a consumer from the revised search phase is by luring them with the most valuable variable – The Price!

Each phase presents an opportunity!

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