May 9, 2007, 12:00 AM

Online research to influence more than $1 trillion in offline sales by 2012

Forrester Research estimates online research influences more than $400 billion in in-store sales, and predicts that figure will exceed $1.1 trillion by 2012. But shoppers often research one retailer’s web site, then buy in another retailer’s store.

Forrester Research estimates that online research influences more than $400 billion in in-store sales, and predicts that figure will exceed $1.1 trillion by 2012. But consumers often go to one retailer’s web site to check out a product, then buy it in another retailer’s store. “That means there’s a huge opportunity for retailers to engage customers across channels,” says Tamara Mendelsohn, author of Forrester’s new cross-channel sales forecast report.

Mendelsohn notes that today the most common products researched online and then bought in physical locations are automobiles, consumer electronics and computers. But she predicts fast growth over the next five years in cross-channel shopping for apparel, health and beauty products, home furnishings and appliances, and jewelry. Whereas automobiles alone accounted for 63% of the $389 million in offline sales influenced by the web in 2006, Forrester predicts cars will account for only 52% of the $1.1 trillion in web-influenced sales in 2012.

Here are some other findings from the Forrester report:
• 51% of online shoppers say they research products on the web and then buy them in stores. And 45% of them say they buy additional items once in the store, spending on average $154 on those other items.
• Cross-channel shoppers are more likely to have high-speed Internet access at home than the general population (60% vs. 40%), a college degree (44% vs. 38%) and higher household income ($71,204 vs. $56,383).
• Asked why they purchased the product offline rather than on the web, the most common answer was to obtain the product immediately (51%), followed by wanted to see the item before purchasing it (42%), did not want to pay shipping costs (40%), and it was more convenient to buy offline (27%).
• 43% says they purchased the item at a different retailer than the one whose web site they used for research.
• Better price was the primary reason for buying an item from a retailer other than the one whose web site was visited, cited by 41% of respondents. Other reasons were that the online retailer did not have an offline store (24%), shopping for more than one product and it was convenient to buy it all at one location (19%) and found a coupon or promotion for the offline retailer (13%).

The findings are based on an annual consumer study conducted by Forrester in the second quarter of 2006.

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