October 26, 2006, 12:00 AM

Knowledgeable electronics shoppers pay more attention to Internet ads

Consumer electronics retailers will continue to invest in search marketing for a very compelling reason: three-fourths of all online and offline purchases are the direct result of Internet-based research, says the Consumer Electronics Association.

Consumer electronics retailers will continue to invest heavily in search marketing and site optimization for a very compelling reason: three-fourths of all online and offline purchases are the direct result of Internet-based research, says the Consumer Electronics Association.

A new association study, conducted by Hall and Partners, explored the path to purchase for five products-cell phones, computers, digital cameras, digital music players and televisions-and found that the online research time directly correlated to product price. As the price of a product increased, so did the amount of time a consumer spent researching that product.

The least amount of time spent researching was on cell phones at nine hours and the most time spent researching was 15 hours on televisions. For those who purchased, the average amount of time spent researching online was 12 hours. "Of the total $32.5 billion spent on the consumer electronics products tracked in this study, online research influenced a striking 77% or $25.1 billion," says senior director of market research Tim Herbert. "Consumers naturally want to make informed buying decisions and we found they are turning to the Internet for their research,” he says. “This includes search engines, manufacturers` web sites, retail web sites and shopping engines."

The amount of time consumers are spending on Internet research is having a direct impact on retailers and the increased attention they are paying to various forms of search marketing. Although the majority of consumer electronics purchases are made at retail locations, the survey showed that there are many reasons why a consumer would research online before purchasing in-store. 73% percent of consumers said comparing prices of the same product at different stores is easy to do online and 64% said they preferred online because there is a wider variety of products. 45% percent of those who research online and purchase offline use a search engine during the information-gathering process.

The study also looked into the differences between "searchers" and "non-searchers" based on self-reported search engine usage during their research and purchase process. "Searchers," defined as those who use search to research consumer electronics, represent 47% of the offline and online purchasers surveyed. These shoppers consider more brands and are 114% more likely to consider Internet display advertising in their research process, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

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