Google and Compete recently completed the Portable PC Shopper Study to better understand the purchase decision journey for tablet, laptop and ultrabook shoppers. Here are a few highlights from our research:

Tablet, Laptop and Ultrabook shoppers are triggered to shop for different reasons.
The top 4 reasons why consumers purchased a device were:
  • They wanted a smaller/lighter device (tablets & ultrabooks indexed higher here)
  • They needed to replace a lost/broken device (laptops indexed higher)
  • They wanted to upgrade their device
  • They purchased based on impulse - they just had to have it
Overall, these triggers were pretty even when looking at data aggregated across portable PCs. Ultrabooks & tablets indexed higher against smaller/lighter device and impulse. Laptops indexed higher against replacing a lost or broken device.

When they start shopping, Portable PC shoppers are often undecided on a brand or retailer.

Portable PC Shoppers use digital sources to inform decisions throughout the research process and search is a key resource.

With so many shoppers relying on digital throughout the purchase process, it’s no surprise that visits to websites that sell tablets, laptops and ultrabooks have grown 10% and online conversions have grown 36% year over year!

Portable PC shoppers are also intense online researchers using many different resources, comparing several brands and searching a lot.

Searchers are often undecided with a third starting their search on a category term.
We evaluated how portable pc shoppers searched online and found the following:
  • 63% of all search paths included a category term (ie tablet, best laptop)
  • 38% of all shoppers and 34% of online purchasers started their search with a category term (ie tablet, best laptop)
  • While a third of converters started with a category term, 42% of them ended with a manufacturer term (ie Dell laptop) or a retailer term (ie Best buy tablet)
  • We also found that 17% of shoppers exclusively search on category terms. In other words, if a retailer or manufacturer does not appear in either paid or organic results on these term, they miss reaching 17% of researchers
Video viewership has tripled year over year.

The number of shoppers watching online video about Portable PCs tripled YOY. Of those shoppers who watched online video about portable PCs, 44% spend 30+ minutes viewing these during the research process.

Video viewers also take action. As a result of watching videos about Portable PCs:
  • 35% visited a store online
  • 29% visited a physical store
  • 23% searched a store’s availability for that specific product
Online video ads especially drive action: 78% of shoppers who saw an online video ad looked up the Portable PC advertiser for more information

Mobile researchers have grown double digits year over year.
The number of tablet, laptop & ultrabook shoppers researching on mobile devices has grown double digits YOY and a third of mobile researchers have used their phone to shop for portable PCs while in a store.

Here is what they are doing on their phones:
  • 36% compare prices and features, read reviews and general product information
  • 27% looked up a store they were interested in purchasing from
  • 34% used mobile to research in a store. Of those, 40% viewed a product description and 33% looked for discounts
  • 70% of mobile shoppers used a search engine to shop for a portable PC
Most purchases occur in-store
While laptop, tablet and ultrabook shoppers research online, most purchases still occur in-store. Well over half of laptop & tablet sales occur in store, and approximately half of those in-store sales are influenced by online research. (Traqline)

Re-engage customer post-purchase to reduce returns & build loyalty
91% of consumers were satisfied with their purchase and most of them would purchase the same brand again. However, 11% of purchasers reported returning their portable PC. When we ask purchasers why they returned their portable pcs, a large portion of returns had nothing to do with a broken device: 40% said it didn’t meet their expectations or they were just dissatisfied with the product. Here are a couple theories why these customers returned their device:
  • The brand messaging set expectations that were not met after consumers purchased the product.
  • There is a need for more customer education. Technology can be complex and educating customers post-purchase will help increase usage and make them feel like they are getting the most out of their purchase.
Key Recommendations:

1) Portable PC shoppers are often undecided on a brand and they use digital resources to inform decisions. Make digital core to your marketing strategy because consumers are using digital sources to make brand choices

2) Search is a key resource for shoppers and a third of searchers start their search with a category term (ie tablet, best laptop). Influence undecided shoppers with ads in top positions on category terms, ensuring a place in the consumers’ consideration set.

3) The number of shoppers watching online videos about Portable PCs has tripled YOY and 78% of consumers who see a portable PC video ad look up the advertiser for more information. Enhance your online video advertising strategy to reach these consumers.

4) The number of Portable PC shoppers researching on mobile devices has grown double digits YOY. Optimize websites for mobile and reach shoppers with ads on their #1 mobile shopping resource - search.

5) Although most shoppers research online, most purchases occur in-store.
Measure online influenced in-store sales when evaluating online ROI.

6) 40% of shoppers who returned a product said it was because they were dissatisfied with the product or it didn’t meet their expectations. Returns are costly to both OEMs and retailers and bad experiences will influence future purchases. Since a large portion of returns had nothing to do with a broken device, it’s important to deliver on your brand promise and educate customers so they get the most out of their new tablet, laptop or ultrabook. Apple does a great job with this by hosting classes and giving customers easy access to Apple experts. We’ve also seen some brands & retailers educate customers through online video tutorials and product reviews.

Posted by Eva Barbier, The Google Technology Team

Source: Google/Compete Portable PC Study Sept 2012