Social search purchase process transformation

By Paul Morris
Social Search is transforming the purchase process, affecting search ranking signals and fundamentally affecting how we search for stuff.

In my last post about social media i focused on the affect social media is having on search ranking signals; in this post i will mainly discuss social media and its affect on the purchase process.

Searching is no longer about Google, Yahoo, Bing, mamma, GigaBlast, Dogpile, Wolfram Alpha, etc. Search is about ‘searching for stuff’ and people search for stuff in a multitude of different ways.

Looking at multi click attribution tools e.g. tagman, atlas, double click, Ignition one, etc generally shows a healthy proportion of people still just use one online channel (e.g. ppc or seo) in the path of conversion. However these same tools show an increasing number of people using a multitude of channels in their path to conversion. This is complicated by the fact that Google is increasingly personalising search (using localisation, contextualisation and via your personal relationships) hence that buyer might have never converted to a sale if they had not been affected by those machine/ profile specific results.

Social Search is a way of reflecting personal influence (the opinions of those that are connected online) in the search results by giving a higher visibility to those that an individual is linked to.

Another way of how social media is transforming the purchase process is by In Social Search. In social search is the integration of search engines within social media platforms. The collaboration between Facebook and Bing is the best example (Bing Facebook Search bar) with over 400 million searches in January 2010 via this search method.

If you therefore take Social search, contextual and locational (e.g. mobile google latitude and facebook deals voucher serving), real time indexing, in social search and the plethora of blogs, tweets, reviews, etc then it is no wonder that social is affecting how people search.

If you then take this a step further; I’m not really putting my neck on the line by stating social is affecting the buying decision and ultimately the conversion rate (and to be fair i’m backed up by a few studies from sources such as Harris Interactive, June 2010; Econsultancy, July 2009 & ROI Research for Performance, June 2010 – Bazaar Voice).

As an example if i’m about to buy a new laptop and in my online research I find a certain Sony model receives good general public reviews (note: part of the reason why search reputation management has become a popular search agency service) and adding to that weight I find a couple of my friends speak highly of Sony Laptops and/ or that model then this not only bolsters that laptop in my profile specific google searches but the reviews of friends sways the buying decision like no other influencing factor.

Clearly then as ‘general’ search rankings are now affected by social media, social search is changing the way results are displayed, in social search is affecting the way we fundamentally search and with social media affect on conversion rate then it’s no wonder companies are taking social media more seriously.