Web Influences Trillion Dollar Retail Sales

New research from GroupM Search, with research partner Kantar Media Compete, reveals that 86% of buyers who purchase in-store use generic terms on search engines to inform their purchase decision. The study, featuring RadioShack, Audi, and a national entertainment brand, also shows that when a shopper conducts a search online and clicks on a link, 90% of those clicks are on the organic listings of a search engine results page.

Forrester Research projected online retail revenues to be $173 billion in 2010, growing over 40% to reach nearly $250 billion by 2014. Yet for all the projected growth, the online channel will account for just 8% of total retail sales revenue. A deeper look at the numbers confirms that this drastically undervalues the role of the Web in the retail industry, says the GroupM study.

The same Forrester study found that in 2011 more than $1.1 trillion in retail sales could be attributed to what they refer to as “Web-influenced” purchases, defined by Forrester as offline retail sales that are influenced by online research. Combined with measured online sales, 48% of all retail sales are either online purchases or Web-influenced purchases. This trend will continue, and by 2014, this number is forecasted to increase to 53%, or $1.4 trillion. Both directly and indirectly, the online channel is truly an inseparable component of consumers’ path to purchase, concludes the report.

Conducted, and detailed in the white paper “From Intent to In-Store: Search’s Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile,” the study explores the role online search plays in in-store purchases, and takes a close look at consumer search behavior and engagement with the retail element of the brands studied.

Chris Copeland, CEO, GroupM Search, points out that “... the Web is influencing more than $1 trillion of in-store sales, and search is the number one online channel for driving that revenue... this new understanding of the retail shopper represents a behavioral shift... “

93% of all buyers, online or in-store, use search. Nearly 80% of buyers who use search rate search as very or extremely useful. The most interesting insights, however, are data around consumer usage of search for in-store shopping, and the intent and activity surrounding these actions. More specifically:

Buyers are much more likely to search on generic terms than branded, 86% of buyers conduct generic versus branded queries. In studying the referrals from search engines to brand and third-party sites, the research also shows that more visitors arrive from generic searches, indicating early stage searching at the top of the purchase funnel. Buyers show a greater propensity to click on a generic link, at a rate of 144% over the general shopper conducting searches in the related category. This reality becomes important because brands typically invest in generic terms based off of the ability to convert down the funnel. However, this data suggests in-store buyers are active up funnel, and if their activity is not supported by a strategy that delivers relevant brand results, they may not reach the store for purchase.

  • 86% of buyers who purchase in-store search on generic terms versus brand terms.
  • For search campaigns focused only on direct response, online return on investment (ROI), this understanding presents an opportunity to challenge conventional wisdom and drive greater overall retail sales.

Across each of the retail profiles included in this study, buyers consistently click on the organic links of a search engine results page (SERP) more often than paid. For branded queries it is just as pronounced, with buyers clicking 64% of the time, broken out by 94% on organic links versus 6% paid. This new data is even more of a tilted reality than the universally stated 80-20 rule of organic versus paid traffic traditionally espoused. In fact, a broader view utilizing Compete’s   U.S.Top 100 data and eliminating the holiday period, puts the ratio of organic to paid clicks closer to 85-15

  • In addition to the significant percentage of organic clicks that occur when a shopper searches, in-store buyers show a greater propensity to click on a generic link, at a rate of 144% over the general shopper (2.5 times more).
  • Brands have a strong mandate via this data to further invest in their organic search efforts, notes the report.

One of the biggest landing points, when consumers do click, is the store locator page. More than 5% of the traffic measured to an advertiser’s site was store locator activity. This interest was shown across all three brands studied, with a notable spike for the brand selling its own branded products in its own stores. When comparing to Compete’s Top 100 U.S. Retailer data, this pattern proves consistent across the larger retail segment, with nearly 15 million consumers conducting a search that results in a click on the store locator during the December holiday period alone. With new functionality from Google and others that embeds store locator options into a SERP, this activity by buyers proves it is more important than ever for advertisers to take advantage of such features

  • More than 5% of traffic measured to an advertiser’s site is store locator activity.
  • Consumers want to visit relevant destinations, whether it is a store locator page, or a third-party site.

The report concludes by noting that three key findings on consumer usage of search for in-store shopping came to theforeground:

  • For in-store buyers, search is about discovery via generic keywords.
  • In-store buyers click on organic listings.
  • There is increased store locator visitation among buyers who use search and purchase in-store.

Finally, says the report, the research paints a clear picture that shows shoppers have established search as their lifeline to the buying decisions they make. Not only is search the most-used online channel in the shopping process, it is often used more than once in that process. 93% percent of all buyers, online or in-store, use search, with nearly 80% rating search as very or extremely useful. Search is used throughout the different stages of the process, with the most frequent path being a single, generic query. However, when consumers conduct multiple searches and move down the funnel, searches shift to what and where to buy. In these follow-up queries, shoppers use explicit queries to inform the specific decisions they are looking to make.

For additional insights included in this report, please visit GroupM here.


1 comment about "Web Influences Trillion Dollar Retail Sales".
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  1. Kirk Cheyfitz from Story Worldwide, November 1, 2011 at 2 p.m.

    While the post is a little confusing, the bottom line seems clear: If you want retail customers, you need to deploy valuable content online that will move your brand to the top of the organic search results. This should be no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention the past couple of years, but it's always nice to add more detail to the argument that traditional advertising is giving way rapidly to so-called content marketing strategies.

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