Monday, May 07, 2007

Yahoo! Study Finds Stage of Illness and Condition Impacts Search Behavior

Yahoo! Study Finds Stage of Illness and Condition Impacts Search Behavior

Sunnyvale CA., May 3, 2007 – Yahoo! Inc., a leading global Internet company, today announced findings from a recent healthcare study examining the intent of consumers searching online for health information across key stages of the lifecycle of an illness. The results show that search behavior differs significantly based on a user’s stage of illness and the condition about which they are searching. Additionally, the study found that consumers become more reliant on search for information about their condition, treatment options, and lifestyle modifications during certain critical stages of their illness.

The study is the second of its kind conducted with Hall and Partners Healthcare to gain insights into the behavior of online healthcare searchers. The first study, “Reach and Engagement,” confirmed that online searchers are more engaged and leverage over 90 percent more information sources than non-searchers, which validated healthcare searchers as a desirable target for marketers. In this new survey, over 12,000 respondents were asked about their search behavior based on their stage in the illness cycle and their specific condition. Among those surveyed, respondents fell into one of five stages of illness within each condition:

  • 27% of respondents were Undiagnosed
  • 11% of respondents were Diagnosed with an illness but not yet taking a prescription medication
  • 24% of respondents were Diagnosed and taking prescription medication with no plans to change
  • 13% of respondents were Diagnosed but considering switching their current medication
  • 25% of respondents were Diagnosed and considering stopping their current medication

Within each stage, consumers were asked about the type of information they were searching for online as well as more information about their condition, lifestyle modifications, treatment options and different medications they were considering. At each stage, the following key findings and implications about search behavior emerged:

  • In the undiagnosed stage, consumers are typically searching because they are experiencing symptoms or are generally concerned about a condition and want to make lifestyle changes. As a result, 38 percent claimed search helped them to make a decision on whether or not to seek medical attention, and 39 percent have seen, or plan to see a doctor. Therefore, marketers have a great opportunity to impact consumer decisions at this critical stage.
  • In the diagnosis stage prior to taking a prescription medication, 50 percent of consumers rely heavily on search to determine if taking a medication is right for them. They are searching for information on prevention and lifestyle modifications to defer the need for medication. Consumers at this stage are also looking for general information and interested in learning about medication side effects. Therefore, marketers should ensure this content is available on their branded and unbranded websites.
  • For consumers who were diagnosed and taking prescription medication with no plans to change, the findings were most interesting. Although these consumers reported being satisfied with their medication, they were still seeking information on competitor products. Fifty-five percent were searching for information on medication side effects, 53 percent for disease prevention and management, and 42 percent for medication effectiveness. These findings suggest that, although consumers may appear content with their medications, they continue to evaluate other treatment options through search.
  • Not surprisingly, consumers who were diagnosed but considering switching medication relied heavily on search, mainly because they think there could be a better medication to suit their needs. Forty percent claimed search played a major role in helping them determine whether or not they should switch medications, and 43 percent were searching for information online as a result of being exposed to an advertisement for another medication. These findings suggest it’s extremely important for marketers to recognize consumers are more likely to be enticed to switch medications in highly advertised categories where they are more likely to see a competitor’s advertisement.
  • Finally, for those that were diagnosed and considering stopping their current medication, 54 percent were seeking information on side effects, while 43 percent were searching for information on prevention and lifestyle management. Consumers in this stage are often unhappy with side effects and want to understand alternative options to medication, so it’s important to focus messaging on a medication’s competitive strengths and benefits.

"Whether a consumer is looking online for information about a specific condition, learning about a certain stage of their illness, researching medication side effects, or findings ways to improve their health overall, search is the starting point of that online conversation," said Bonnie Becker, Senior Director of the Pharmaceutical Category for Yahoo! Search Marketing. "In order to reach these consumers and have maximum impact, marketers must not only include search in their overall marketing mix, but also tailor their messages to address consumers’ specific needs and concerns at critical phases during their search."

Yahoo! Search Marketing Press Contact:
Heather Meeker
(714) 580-7761 Cell  


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