Leveraging online search for superior consumer profiling and targeting

Browser knows best

Think about those who know you best. Chances are, someone like your spouse/partner, sibling or best friend comes to mind. Someone, or rather something, you are probably not considering is your web browser. It used to be that when we wanted to know something we asked another person, but today we go straight to the Internet. In fact, a recent study by Experian Marketing Services found that an astonishing 99.8 percent of online Americans say that Internet is the first place they look for information on one or more topics, ranging from weather to news to sports and more.

One reason we increasingly turn to the Internet is that, unlike individual human beings, the Internet is a virtually endless source of information, no matter the topic. And search engines connect us to the information we want almost instantly and without question or judgment. Embarrassed to admit you don’t know how to boil an egg? Ask the Internet. Late night anxiety about a possible medical condition? Ask the Internet. Need to know the score of the game, but can’t get to a TV? You guessed it: Ask the Internet.

These days, our web browsers and search engines know us better than just about anyone. They know our aspirations, our desires, our fears, our wants and our needs. They know us so well, actually, that most browsers now include an option to search and browse privately or “incognito.”

Search: the untapped source of consumer insights

Given this fundamental shift in information seeking, search has become one of the most powerful, and yet untapped, sources of consumer insights. Hitwise, as the operator of the largest online panel measuring consumer behavior and search in five markets, is particularly well positioned to provide marketers with insights derived from search. Furthermore, our new AudienceViewTM platform was expressly designed to deliver insights derived from that panel of 25 million online adults, including over 700 million monthly search variations. It does so by allowing marketers to define and/or profile audience segments based on their offline and online behaviors.

My latest report, Five ways to better target and profile audiences using online search behavior, explores five ways that marketers can generate more accurate, more insightful, more actionable consumer insights drawn from audience profiles and targets driven by search. One of the ways I suggest using search is to learn more about early adopters of new trends.

In these digital times, the Internet not only helps spread news and information, but also consumer trends at fiber optic speeds. Marketers using traditional survey techniques to better understand an emerging behavior or interest must develop a set of questions to accurately measure the topic of interest, field a survey, process the responses and analyze the results. Depending on the trend, this can take as little as a month or up to a year — by which time the targeted trend may no longer be of interest or may have since morphed into something completely different from what was originally measured.

Leverage online search to stay ahead of fast moving trends

To stay ahead of emerging trends and develop products and services that meet consumers’ constantly changing demands, marketers need more timely insights into fast moving trends and the consumers adopting them. Online search is an ideal source for this insight.

An example of this approach highlighted in the report provides insight into the growing number of consumers searching for “beard oil” online. In fact, in the past 18 months, online searches for “beard oil” in the United States rose by an astounding 2,100 percent. Leveraging AudienceView, we built an audience segment defined as anyone who conducted a recent search for “beard oil.” By running a series of quick snapshot reports against this audience, we were able to identify the lifestyle of a beard oil searcher including not only who they are, but where they shop, how they live and how to reach them.

online searches for beard oil

For instance, a third of those Americans searching for “beard oil” are actually women. We also found that their interests include things like woodworking, upcycling and recycling and paleo diets. Beard oil searchers are among those trying out subscription shopping sites like Trunk Club and, of course, Dollar Beard Club. When it comes to media, these men and women are more likely to read health and fitness magazines online, but they’re also interested in international events and are following the upcoming primary races for the 2016 Presidential election.

search reveals beard oil stats

To learn more about how you can leverage online search to better understand your target audience in the here and now, download the free report, Five ways to better target and profile audiences using online search behavior.