The internet's influence on in-store consumer buying behaviour is increasingly steadily, as consumers trust and confidence in online product information approaches that of recommendations from friends and family, according to a survey by the CMO Council.
The study explored the impact of the internet on in-store purchasing patterns, and found that the landscape of media influence is shifting, with the web shaping an increasing number of in-store sales.
The CMO Council's 'Summer RetailFluency Report' shows that more than half of the 322 post-purchase shoppers polled consulted the internet before purchasing at an bricks-and-mortar retail store. Furthermore, half of this group reported spending one to three hours conducting their research online before going to make a planned purchase.
The exit poll, commissioned by Yahoo! and fielded in partnership with The ConsumerEdge Research Group, polled US consumers exiting BestBuy, CompUSA and Circuit City stores. Shoppers were asked about the products they had just purchased, how their purchase was influenced by various information sources, how much time they spent researching their purchase on the web, and whether or not their purchase decision was changed after they entered the store.
The report suggests that internet research helps solidify brand awareness, increases product influence, and can also drive in-store traffic. As a source of influence, brand reputation appears prominently in the mix for internet researchers, although much less so for those who don't research on the web before they enter the store. This suggests that web research could reduce the chance of users being swayed to a different brand by in-store selling techniques.
Other significant findings detailed in the report include:
- In-store sales associates (49%), in-store demonstrations (36%), family and friends (33%), newspapers (25%) and the internet (21%) were viewed as being the top five most influential information sources. Magazines, television, and radio were at the bottom of list, all with less than 5%.
- Newspapers (the only traditional media channel figuring prominently in driving buyer behaviour) still exert some influence although primarily via coupon offers, retail location listings, and editorial reviews.
- Of those purchasers who researched first on the web, the top online influencers were the product and/or company web site (47%), search listings (41%), and retail store sites (39%).
- The differences between heavy (1-3 hours) and light (less than 1 hour) internet users show that heavy web users make use of more third-party online resources (e.g. chat, blogs and user sites). Perhaps surprisingly, banner ads also showed relatively high influence among heavy web users.
According to CMO Council executive director, Donovan Neale-May, "It's clear from this study that while in-store activities have the most influence in buying decisions, the internet has a significant impact on building brand awareness and pre-purchase intent." Elizabeth Harz, category development officer for technology at Yahoo!, added: "This highlights the internet as a key tool for raising brand awareness and improving product knowledge."