March 23, 2006, 12:00 AM

Study suggests search marketing’s biggest ROI could be in offline sales

A comScore study sponsored by Google finds that of holiday shoppers who searched online, 25% ultimately bought a product related to that search. Most of them – 63%-- completed the purchase offline.

A comScore Networks study sponsored by Google further quantifies what retailers already know: online search is a powerful driver of offline buying behavior. Of 83 million Americans tracked by comScore who searched at one of the 24 top search engines in November and December, 25% purchased an item relating to their query, and of that number, the majority – 63% -- completed that purchase offline.


“Importantly, it’s clear from this study that the influence of search on offline buying behavior can often be responsible for the major portion of the overall financial return from investments in search marketing,” says James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Search Marketing Solutions.

Of 11 product categories studied, offline buyer conversion was highest in the video game and consoles category, where 17% of searches converted and of that number 93% did so offline; and in the toys and hobbies category, where 42% of searchers converted and of that number 88% did so offline. In fact, across these categories and the categories of consumer electronics, and music/movies/videos, more than 80% of all conversions occurred offline.

Other findings measured the latent effect of search on holiday purchasing. 56% of consumers` online holiday buying actually occurred in subsequent Internet sessions, not the session in which a search originated. Conversions off latent search, in which the purchase lagged the initial search, at 56% of consumers tracked were more common that direct conversions off search. Among product categories, conversions off latent search were greatest in the music, movies and video category, where they represented 77% of the buyers who’d searched; and the computer/ peripherals/PDA and the home and garden categories, where they repsented 69% of buyers in each category. The study also determined that as a source of buying information, holiday buyers ranked online search second in importance only to physical stores.

The data on offline buying behavior of those that had searched online came from an e-mail survey of a selected statistically significant sample of online consumers in comScore’s panel.

ComScore executive John Miniati, is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition June 5-7 in Chicago on Who`s Online and How Do You Reach Them?

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