March 13, 2007, 12:00 AM

Print magazines biggest driver of shoppers to online search, study says

When asked what motivates them to search online for merchandise, the largest share of consumers, 47.2%, cited ads in print magazines, according to a study commissioned by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.

When asked what motivates them to search online for merchandise, the largest share of consumers, 47.2%, cited ads in print magazines, followed by 43.7% who cited reading articles in print publications, according to a study conducted by BIGresearch LLC for the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.

“When it comes to advertising, retailers always need to be careful not to put all of their eggs in one basket,” says Mike Gatti, executive director of RAMA, which is a division of the National Retail Federation.

In terms of offline advertising, ads in newspapers and on TV closely followed magazines. 42.3% of consumers cited ads in newspapers and 42.8% cited ads on TV as the channels that most motivated them to search online.

The study also found notable differences among the way men and women respond to marketing campaigns. More women than men search online because of print coupons (41.8% vs. 29%) and in-store promotions (29% vs. 24.5%). But 36.1% of men said a face-to-face conversation would motivate them to search online, compared to 29.5% of women.

92.5% of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store, the study found. Products most often researched online before being purchased in a store include electronics (50.8%), apparel (31.9%), and appliances (27%). Men are twice as likely as women to shop for automobiles online (20.2% vs. 10.2%), though women research home décor products more often than men (18.9% vs. 11.6%), the study says.

After searching online, 69.5% of consumers said they were most likely to share their search information about products and brands with others through in-person conversations, while 53.1% aid through e-mail; 50.9%, telephone; and 30%, cell phone.

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 37.5% said they were most likely to share search information through online instant messaging; 23.7%, text messaging; and 20.6%, social networking sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com.

“Retailers must have holistic knowledge of how customers are interacting across media to maximize return on investment,” said Joe Pilotta, vice president of BIGresearch. “To buy something based on clicks without understanding the potential causes shortchanges the effective allocation of advertising dollars.”

The study is based on a poll of 15,287 consumers in December 2006.

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