Internet Research Drives In-store Sales
According to the CMO Council's "Summer RetailFluency Report," Internet research helps solidify brand awareness, increase product influence, and can drive in-store traffic. The exit survey of postpurchase shoppers at BestBuy, Circuit City, and CompUSA, found that roughly half of them spent one to three hours conducting research online before heading to the stores. The top online influencers for those shoppers were product or company Web sites (47 percent), search listings (41 percent), and retail store sites (39 percent). Eleven percent named banner ads as an influential source.
"We wanted to look at the issue of how Internet research is figuring into an overall marketing mix for companies selling their products in retail stores," says Chris Kenton, senior vice president for the CMO Council. "The whole dynamic is changing as the Internet matures and people better understand how to utilize the Internet. We're interested in understanding how that's driving relevancy between companies and customers." To understand how online and offline information sources compare in their influence over purchasing decisions, respondents were asked to rank a mix of media and word-of-mouth channels. The CMO Council found the most remarkable trend to be the dramatically diminished influence of most traditional media sources.
Newspapers largely drive in-store traffic by notifying customers of sales and providing coupons. People either ranked them as their top influencer or not at all. The Internet, on the other hand, drives brand awareness. Shoppers who did not search online did not rank brand awareness as a significant influencer.
"Companies need to understand the Internet is not a separate part of their marketing mix. Online and offline are intricately connected. Pushing people to a Web site is not the only thing they need to do to deliver messages," Kenton says.
However, other information sources ranked higher than Internet research on in-store sales on the list. In-store sales associates received the first rank by 49 percent of respondents, followed by in-store demonstrations (36 percent), family and friends (33 percent), and newspapers (25 percent). Twenty-one percent of respondents ranked the Internet number one.
"All this technology is diffusing control of the message," Kenton says. "It's starting to move from one-to-many broadcast corporate messages to companies having to [interject] them into the discussions people are having about their products. The companies [that] succeed will be the ones [that] say, We care about what you think."
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