NEW DELHI: Financial services brands must enhance their online activity in India, where a growing audience of consumers are researching and buying products on the web.

Google, the digital giant, and TNS Australia, the insights provider, polled 1,006 internet users, alongside analysing relevant search queries entered across a 12 month period.

According to the findings, over two-thirds of the panel utilised this medium when researching financial products.

A 58% majority reported that the web aided their initial research, while 42% learned about products or brands via the same route, and 62% conducted "intense research" before making a final purchase.

During the research process, some 75% of people in the market for a home loan had been influenced by the net, standing at 73% for personal loans, and 70% for both health and motor insurance.

Elsewhere, the survey discovered that more than 66% of participants engaging in online research had changed their mind about which product to purchase.

In all, there are now 137m web users in India, of which 99m live in urban areas and have relatively high amounts of disposable income, Rajan Anandan, Google India's managing director, said.

"Given the reach of internet to high value customers and its influence on the decision making for financial products ... financial services can create significant value by innovating on the digital medium and adopting an 'online first' approach to serve the needs of the digitally savvy customers," he added.

Some 70% of applications for financial products are still completed offline. However, 38% of applications are made away from the web but had been influenced by this channel. A further 24% of transactions occur solely through digital media.

Overall, the number of Google searches about financial services products had grown by 43% year on year. Enquiries regarding banks made up 73% of this traffic from desktop PCs, where search frequency rates rose by 45% on an annual basis.

Approximately 10% of all related queries come from mobile phones, with insurance seeing a 75% lift here over the 12 months assessed. This figure stood at 85% for banks and 105% for investments.

The top three banks in terms of total search entries were HDFC Bank, the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank. LIC, ICICI Prudential and Bajaj Allianz took the top three spots in the insurance sector.

Data sourced from Livemint, Economic Times, Firstpost; additional content by Warc staff