July 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Retailers don’t deliver the e-commerce news in newspaper ads, study says

Few retailers prominently display their web addresses in newspaper ads, and many have product and pricing information that’s different in the ads than it is on their web sites, according to a study by interactive marketing agency Rosetta.

While many retailers continue to invest in newspaper advertising, few are doing a good job of tying those ads to their e-commerce sites, according to a study by interactive marketing agency Rosetta.

The study of 30 retailers found many cases in which products featured in newspaper ads were not easy to find on the web site, or unavailable, and many cases of the price in the ad being different from the price on the web site. Only one in 10 retailers studied put products featured in ads on their home pages. And only 16% featured their web site addresses prominently in ads, with many of the others putting the URL in very small type, burying it at the bottom of the ad or omitting it altogether.

"What we`re seeing here is that retailers are still, even now, failing to connect the online opportunity with offline efforts," says Rosetta partner Eric Cantini. "Retailers spend significant dollars on newspaper ads, but are failing in the fundamentals of cross-channel marketing. Most aren`t even using the ads to promote the web site, and are plagued by inconsistencies in offers and brand from the ads to what they offer online. They`re literally throwing money away."

Only one retailer got what Rosetta deemed a passing grade, home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos. Inc., No. 76 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, which scored 74 out of a possible 100 in the Rosetta study. Lowe’s got credit for using newspaper ads to encourage consumers to visit the section of its web site, www.lowes.com/community, that describes the retailer’s community service efforts; for establishing itself as a source of information by highlighting www.lowes.com/efficienthome, a section of the site with information on how to save on energy and other costs; by encouraging customers to visit a web page featuring Father’s Day gifts for gift suggestions; and by consistently promoting on its home page products spotlighted in the ads.

Rosetta gave failing grades to 43% of the retailers studied, saying they did nothing to drive consumers to their web sites or provided messages in the newspaper ads that were misleading or inconsistent with what was on the web.

Rosetta offers these recommendations for multichannel retailers advertising in newspapers:

  • Make sure promotions are consistent from print to online.
  • Make it easy for consumers to find products advertised in print ads when they go to a web site.
  • Tune site search tools so that a search related to a print promotion will put at the top of search results products featured in print ads.
  • Use print ads to promote the web site as a resource offering expanded selection, gift guides and as a source of information.

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