May 3, 2006, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED SUPPLEMENT: Creating product information for online and offline shopping

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Hand says the time has come when retailers should view the web as important to advertising as offline media. On the Internet in general, the proportion of web-to-store consumers who spend five hours or more a month shopping online has increased from 35% to 45% in the last six months, according to a survey commissioned by ShopLocal. And, Hand notes, “The vast majority of shoppers who come to ShopLocal view the web as at least as important as other advertising channels-print, TV and radio.”

The future of shopping

ShopLocal is seeking to increase that amount of time even further with a site re-design that launched in early March. The site has a more polished, branded look, Hand says, and features improved search and browse capability as well as star ratings and the ability to compare products among multiple retailers as well as to compare online and offline products. Feedback has been good so far, he says.

The changes reflect the future of shopping, he says, especially the comparison features. “Retailers used to have a concern about price comparisons,” Hand says. “But the web is what it is and people will use it to compare prices. Retailers are coming to realize that price isn’t what drives behavior-rather, shoppers look for retailers that are acceptable to them. Price is relevant but it isn’t always the ultimate driver.”

In fact, more convenient forms of product information will be the future of shopping. “Retailers will have to offer a combination of online and offline information to reinforce buying behavior in both channels,” Finn says. “Consumers are researching online and buying offline and shopping offline and then going online to price compare. Both of those trends are affecting how companies sell their products.”

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