The value of Internet search

Shopping habits have changed since the advent of the Internet.  People often do Internet searches on products or sellers before buying. How much is this kind of search activity is worth to people and the economy? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds with information from a new study.

“Well … we have a new study from the McKinsey Group. They’re a big research group out of  Washington. They looked at data and found, for example, in 2010 the average Internet user … did 1,500 searches a year on average. And if you look at worldwide how many searches, Internet searches, were done in that year: 1.6 trillion searches worldwide.

“And, of course, that number is going to continue to go up. And what McKinsey found is that they … see three big benefits to folks using the Internet to … do … shopping searches. One, it’s a very efficient way to acquire information. Two, of course, you save a lot of time — think of how many shopping outlets you can look at in mere minutes rather than driving to each of those.

“And then thirdly — and perhaps this … wouldn’t strike many people — because businesses know that … you and I can do quick searches, they’re going to be more cautious with their prices, and they’re going to post the most competitive price they can.

“So, based on these benefits, … McKinsey calculated that right now the … value –the economic value — of all these Internet searches worldwide is about $800 billion dollars.  That was for 2009.  And that’s going to continue to go up.

“Last little piece of information on McKinsey: Internet searches are very valuable for you and me as shoppers. They’re also very valuable for the business. They found that for every dollar that a business spends on a website and then putting the information on a website … they get back, on average, $7 of revenue.”

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