Tech Shoppers Search Online Before Buying, Study Finds

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More technology product shoppers are searching online before purchasing at an offline store, a study released yesterday found.

More than half of shoppers polled in the CMO Council's Summer RetailFluency Report commissioned by Yahoo said they consult the Internet before buying at an offline location.

"We really see that brand awareness matters, and you're seeing the in-store traffic as a result," said Elizabeth Harz, category development officer for technology at Yahoo. "Marketers who understand the correlation between offline and online ... and really take advantage of that will prevail."

Most shoppers -- surveyed by ConsumerEdge Research Group outside Best Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City stores -- spent one to three hours doing online research.

The study also gave insight into how important a company's brand reputation is to online shoppers. Forty-seven percent ranked the product or company's Web site as the top influence on their buying decisions while search listings had less influence at 41 percent. Thirty-nine percent said retailers' Web sites were influential in their purchase decision.

"Product Web sites are probably more of a trusted channel of information," said Scott Van Camp, editorial services director at the CMO Council. "It is going straight to the horse's mouth."

Brand reputation is more important to online than offline shoppers. Thirty-eight percent of online shoppers said brand reputation factored into their buying decision, but offline shoppers said it didn't influence them at all.

"Shoppers who are spending time online before they actually make a purchase are able to be educated about brand assets and brand values," Harz said.

Though consumers said the Internet was one of their most influential sources when making purchase decisions -- 21 percent said it was the most influential -- some offline sources ranked higher.

Forty-nine percent ranked in-store sales associates as most influential when making purchase decisions, 36 percent named in-store demonstrations, 33 percent cited family and friends, and 25 percent said newspapers. Other offline media sources, including magazines, television and radio, all garnered less than a 5 percent share of influence.

Those surveyed used Google most often to search for purchase information at 34 percent, then Yahoo at 31 percent. America Online garnered 12 percent of searches and MSN 6 percent.

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