Study: Search Vital to Wireless Buyers

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Thirty-seven percent of shoppers said search influenced them more than any other channel when buying a wireless product, according to a study released today.

In their joint study, Yahoo Search Marketing, Pasadena, CA, and analytics firm Compete Inc., Boston, also found that most searchers go offline to buy such products.

After observing the behavior of Compete's panel of 2 million consumers and surveying 785 wireless subscribers over one year, Yahoo and Compete found that 70 percent of people who purchased their phones offline used online research before buying.

The results show that search has emerged as a substantial component of online consideration behavior, according to the study.

Search is used as a decision-making tool, not just a navigational tool. Wireless purchasers are open to multiple brands, and many use search to narrow their choice of carrier.

"People are finding the information they need and going back and searching more," said T.J. Mahoney, managing director at Compete.

And 72 percent more consumers searched for wireless products this year than last, the study found. Yahoo and Compete expect 24 million consumers to perform a keyword search for wireless service by the end of 2005.

"The Internet has emerged as the largest single point of contact carriers have, but it is also a marketing tool," Mahoney said. "When you think about the volume of consumers initiating their shopping process online, the Internet has emerged as a separate component of the overall wireless shopping service."

As in other industries, the aggregators or resellers of wireless products use search marketing more effectively than the traditional players, the study found, even though 61 percent of consumers said they expect the wireless brand leader to be in the top three search results.

For the "Big 5" carriers -- Cingular, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless -- search accounts for less than 1 percent of their total media mix, according to the study.

"We want to make sure advertisers realize that search is part of a holistic campaign," said David Rubinstein, wireless category leader at Yahoo Search Marketing.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting


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