Pew's Online Product Research report reveals that more than half (58 percent) of Americans research products and services online prior to making purchases.

Businesses know they can't ignore the internet as a channel for reaching consumers, but a new study released by Pew sheds light on the value of internet marketing strategies to potential sales. Pew's Online Product Research report reveals that more than half (58 percent) of Americans research products and services online prior to making purchases.

Pew researchers asked more than 3,000 U.S. adults about their online shopping habits. While 58 percent of overall respondents say they conduct product research online, nearly four-fifths (78 percent) of internet users say they have researched business offerings on the web.

Men and women almost evenly take part in online shopping activity, and members of different races and age groups all reported using the web to look up product and service information as well. For marketers, this means there will be an online audience for any company. 

In addition to offering brands a broad reach, online marketing is a good way to frequently engage consumers. Twenty-one percent of all survey respondents conduct product research on a typical day. This finding demonstrates a 6 percent increase over the number of consumers who shopped online on a daily basis in 2007, indicating that internet product research is becoming a more prevalent part of Americans' everyday lives.

The rise of online product research coincides with the rise of social media use. Pew reports that nearly half (46 percent) of consumers use social sites, including Facebook or LinkedIn. Marketers should take advantage of these platforms to offer relevant content to internet users conducting research via social networks. 

While Pew fails to indicate whether research is happening on social sites or through traditional search engines, recent developments indicate good content can help businesses get found by both social and search audiences. Quality content will help brands get pushed up in search results and, as Brafton reported yesterday, Facebook is now showing content that has caught "likes" in the search type ahead feature of the social site. 

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.