Report: Consumers Swayed By Gadget Ads Online

Internet ads pushing consumer electronics appear to have a bigger influence over buying habits than those trading in apparel, household products, or home-improvement goods, according to a study released Friday by BIGresearch. For its "Simultaneous Media Usage Study," BIGresearch surveyed more than 14,000 multitasking online consumers to determine which types of ads actually influenced spending--as opposed to just stirring awareness.

"We're really the only firm that has taken seriously the concept of cross-platform, or simultaneous influences that consumers are subjected to," explained Joseph Pilotta, vice president of research at BIGresearch.

Web-based media, reported BIGresearch, was influential to almost 36 percent of consumers looking to purchase electronics, cited by more respondents than any other media.

Some analysts are hesitant to draw conclusions right now. "Consumer electronics have certainly grown very popular, but I don't subscribe to the notion that the Internet is better at selling one thing than another," Patti Freeman Evans, JupiterResearch analyst, said.

Evans questioned the methodology of reports that compare the advertising effectiveness of such disparate products as iPods and heads of lettuce. "Electronics experience trends and seasonal shifts that other sectors do not," Evans added.

The study, dividing Internet advertising and e-mail advertisements, found that 16.7 percent of U.S. consumers said e-mail has an influence on their electronics purchases. In contrast, 12.7 percent said the same for apparel; 8.7 percent for grocery-food, cleaning, and beauty products; and 6.8 percent for home improvement.

Similarly, 19 percent of consumers said the Internet influenced their electronics purchases, while just 11.4 percent said the Internet affected their apparel purchases, 8.9 percent said it affected their grocery purchases, and 7.9 percent considered it to be a factor in purchasing home improvement goods.

Although a total 24.1 percent of respondents said either e-mail or the Internet influenced their decision to purchase clothing, the e-mail/Internet outlet trailed other media as an influencer for grocery shopping and home improvement. Online was weaker in products directly related to the home, but as strong as TV for electronics and clothing purchases.

The majority of surveyed consumers said their shopping habits were influenced more by word of mouth that by other TV, or coupons, or news inserts. BIGresearch's Pilotta said that non-traditional word of mouth--text messages, e-mails, blogs--was definitely a factor here.

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