October 20, 2005, 12:00 AM

Web’s influence on in-store purchase is rising, study finds

A shopper study commissioned by Yahoo and the CMO Council finds that more than half of the shoppers polled researched an item on the web before buying it in the store. Half of that group spent 1-3 hours researching online.

Broadcast media gets big budgets from marketers, but new study shows the Internet is exerting a greater influence on store purchases. A study commissioned by the CMO Council and Yahoo found that 21% of the shoppers in a store exit poll ranked research they did on the Internet as one of the top three information sources influencing the purchase they had just made in the store. By contrast, only 4% rated either TV or radio among the three factors most influencing their purchases, while only 3% included radio.

In-store sales associates were rated most influential in purchasing decisions, cited as one of the top three influences by 49% of those surveyed; in-store demonstration were cited among the top three by 36%; family and friends, cited by 33%; and newspapers, 25%.

Addressing the point that newspapers were the only legacy media channel shown to continue to influence buying behavior significantly, the study concludes, based on further analysis of the data gathered, that newspapers are exerting a strong effect and driving store traffic not through brand or product influence but based on coupon offers and local sales announcements.

“The Internet on the other hand is showing a broad and growing range of influence at the levels of brand, product and store traffic, with an increasing number of coupons and retailer deals,” the study report states. In fact, when asked to rank the number one influence on their store purchase rather than name the top three, the Internet was ranked as the top influence as frequently as was influence of friends and family; by 12% of respondents in each case.

In other findings, the survey found that of purchasers who research first on the web, the top online influencers were the product or company web site, cited by 47%; search listings, 41%; and retail store sites, 39%. The study also determined that heavy Internet users – defined as those who did one to three hours of research on the web before making their purchase – used more third-party online sources such as chat, blogs and user sites than did lighter Internet users – defined as those who researched online for an hour or less before buying. Banners ads also proved to have relatively high influence among heavy web users.

“It’s clear from the study that while in-store activities have the most influence in buying decisions, the Internet has a significant impact on building brand awareness and pre-purchase intent,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.

The survey of 322 post-purchase, in-store shoppers was conducted in the late spring and early summer at 28 BestBuy, CompUSA and Circuit City stores in the Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas and San Francisco Bay area markets.

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