Researching research

Using Google's Consumer Barometer, we check out when and how Canadians investigate their future purchases.


Do you need to reach consumers months or moments before they make their purchases? Are their purchases more informed by the product site you’ve set up or what the in-store sales rep tells them? Strategy played around with Google’s Consumer Barometer to delve into how Canadian shoppers do their research.

Of the consumers surveyed in this year, 54% said doing research online first made them aware of a product, with 38% saying it came through research done in-store.

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In-store was the most popular form of offline research, with 34% of respondents saying it informed a recent purchase, followed by word-of-mouth research at 21%. Listening, reading or watching some form of offline media (such as magazines, radio or television) informed 13% of recent purchases.

Online research was most often done right on the website of the brand itself (in 25% of recent purchases) or the retailer (17%). Home computers are still the most commonly used research tool, with 85% of respondents saying they used it to look something up, compared to 19% for smartphones and 11% for tablets. Also, 69% said they used their computer exclusively, compared to the 9% that used their computer and smartphone in combination. For 61% of respondents, the internet came into play when doing product comparisons, although for 35% it was used to gain inspiration for a purchase.

Males were also slightly more likely to research a purchase beforehand, with 75% saying they did some form of research, compared to 68% of females. The younger a respondent was, the more likely they were to research a purchase, but they are also using offline sources: for those under 35 years old, 63% did some form of offline research, compared to 58% going online.

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Travel purchases were the products most often investigated online, with 77% researching hotels and 75% researching flights. Cinema tickets (65%), home appliances (64%) and mobile phones (61%) followed closely.

Home appliances are heavily informed by in-store experiences, with 81% saying their purchase was informed by offline research. Purchasers of movie tickets and mobile phones also researched offline, at 75% and 70% respectively, and televisions (68%) also ranked high. Also, just over half of grocery and clothing purchases were mostly informed by offline sources.

In terms of when it is being done, research on travel purchases (hotels at 27% of respondents and flights at 22%), appliances (21%), televisions (21%) and mobile phones (20%) were done several weeks ahead of the purchase. The same product categories also had the highest rate of being researched in the days ahead of the purchase. Flights were the only purchase with a significant number of respondents (16%) starting their research more than a month ahead of time. Clothing (35%), movie tickets (30%), groceries (30%) and make-up (20%) were done moments before the purchase was made.

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