Consumers driven online by offline channels: study

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Offline media channels drive consumers online, according to BIGresearch's "Simultaneous Media Survey," conducted for the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.

Consumers admit that traditional advertisements cue them to when and where to search online.

"It can be difficult for retailers to know how to best allocate their advertising dollars," said Mike Gatti, executive director at the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. "With the Internet becoming such a powerful player in the marketing world, this study challenges retailers to understand what triggers an online search."

Survey respondents said they were most motivated to begin an online search after viewing advertisements in magazines (47.2 percent), newspapers (42.3 percent), on TV (42.8 percent) and from reading articles (43.7 percent).

Women were more likely than men to be motivated by coupons (41.8 percent compared to 29 percent) and in-store promotions (29 percent compared to 24.5 percent), while men were more driven to start an online search based on a face-to-face conversation (36.1 percent compared to 29.5percent).

O nline consumers said they are most likely to communicate with others about their search through face-to-face discussion (68.9 percent), by e-mail (53.1 percent), telephone (50.9 percent) and cell phone (30 percent).

Adults 18 to 24 communicate about service, products and brands by instant messaging (37.5 percent), text messaging (23.7 percent) and through online communities like MySpace and Facebook (20.6 percent).

"Although search engine marketing is a valuable tool for many retailers, it is important to remember that no advertising media can exist in a vacuum," Mr. Gatti said. "The most successful companies will consider and use a variety of advertising strategies to attract and retain customers."

Shoppers use the Web as a resource for determining which items to buy and where.

According to the survey, 92.5 percent of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store.

Products that are most often researched online before being purchased in a store include electronics (50.8 percent), apparel (31.9 percent) and appliances (27.0 percent).

Men (20.2 percent) were about twice as likely as women (10.2 percent) to shop for automobiles online, though women research home d├ęcor products more often than men (18.9 percent compared to 11.6 percent).

"With findings from this research, retailers will be able to effectively use traditional advertisements and new media like blogs and instant messaging to bring their target market to the Web," Mr. Gatti said.

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