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Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2008 at 6:23 am

How Online Searches Affect Offline Sales

By Holly Buchanan
July 23rd, 2008

poochesI was recently looking for a new speaker stand for my iPod. It would never even occur to me to go into my local electronics store to see what was available and what might be right for me. I do what I always do when researching a new product. I go to Google. Once I do my research on the Internet and decide what I want – THEN I may go to a brick and mortar store to buy it.

Seems I’m not alone. A recent study provides more evidence of the online/offline buying connection.

Media measurement company, Nielsen Online, conducted a survey to examine the relationship between online research and offline purchases. They found that 80% of participants who had recently bought consumer electronics from a brick and mortar store whose site they visited first.

  • 53% bought from the site where they spent the most time.
  • 58% would choose the internet if they could only use one channel to conduct product research on consumer electronics. Only 25% chose the brick and mortar store.

It’s certainly not breaking news that customers do research online before they buy. But how much that online experience affects offline purchases may have been underestimated.

Are you answering your customers questions?

I was in Petsmart the other day stocking up food and gourmet snacks for my pups. I’ve been considering changing dog food. But was that a decision Petsmart’s brick and mortar store could help me make? Maybe, if there had been a doggie nutrition expert standing in the aisle, or they had a “food tasting” aisle where I could let my picky Boston Terrier sample different foods and choose his favorite. But no such help was provided.

The Neilson Online study found this about pet food purchasers:

Here’s the percentages of pet food survey participants who would use the internet to research each topic.

48% Learn about nutritional specifications

45% Learn about product ingredients

45% Learn about recalls

40% Learn more about safety issues

40% Find sales/promotions

This works both ways. Find better ways to answer your visitors’ questions on your website, but also look at better ways to answer their questions in your brick and mortar store.

Defining & Measuring Success

With the average conversion rate under 3%, it doesn’t mean that 97% of visits fail.  How do you determine if you give your visitors what they want, whether you communicated effectively with them and whether you influenced their thinking and buying behaviors as well as those of their social-media-connected friends.

Defining success or failure, not only through your metrics but also through measuring the perceptions and actions of your visitors is challenging but possible if you understand the value of qualitative metrics and of quantitative metrics using Persuasion Architecture; just ask us how.

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Comments (3)

  1. Thanks for the insight, i know some customers have special needs and questions that are not always answered on the websites they visit. Adding all the information you can about products is sure to help your customers. Every website owner should take a hard look at their product pages to make sure they are doing all they can to provide the information their customers need.

  2. I think experienced online retailers know that integrated customer reviews are absolutely key to selling products. I take a lesson from Newegg because they have a tab with every product for product details, and another for customer reviews.

    Of course this only works for shopping sites which have a lot of existing traffic. Newer sites need to be more creative and provide the appropriate links to additional product information I think until they reach such critical mass as their own shoppers can provide the info like Newegg does.

  3. [...] contribution to offline sales. Holly Buchanan from GrokDotCom follows up with a good look at just how tied search is to the offline sales. Saving money on terms may cost you sales in other channels. So, choose [...]

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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