Report: Consumers Shop Online, Buy Offline

Internet-savvy newshounds tend to use the Web to research products, even if they ultimately buy from brick-and-mortar stores, according to a study being released today by Yahoo!

For the study, research firms Faulkner Focus and Ipsos-Insight looked at nearly 1,200 Internet users between the ages of 18 and 49, who said they read their local newspaper in hard copy at least three times a week. More than half of this group--54 percent--said they went online for information about purchases. Of those people, 36 percent bought some products online and some offline, 35 percent only bought offline, and 29 percent only purchased online.

For some news junkies, the information in the newspapers directly led to the online window shopping that resulted in the offline purchase, said Michael Schornstein, category development officer for retail at Yahoo! "We found a symbiotic relationship between the newspaper and the Internet," he said.

For instance, said Schornstein, one consumer studied saw a print ad for a cell-phone plan, then went online to the marketer's site to seek further information about the plan--and then, finally, sealed the deal at the marketer's brick-and-mortar store.

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Why wouldn't such consumers simply make their purchases online? "Immediate gratification," said Schornstein. When buying from a brick-and-mortar store, customers can walk out with a new product on the spot, instead of having to wait for it to ship.

Given that newspaper readers are seeking product information online, Schornstein recommended that marketers include their online address in their print ads. Also, said Schornstein, marketers' online advertising should work in concert with their print ads.

Alan Schanzer, managing partner of the New York media shop The Digital Edge, agreed that marketers need to coordinate their online and offline campaigns. For example, he said, when consumers click on a company's Web site, they should be able to easily find any information corresponding to an offline ad.

Schanzer added that slightly more than half of the marketers he works with are trying to mesh Web advertising with print or television ads. That proportion, he said, is up from last year--when somewhere between one-quarter and one-half of such marketers were interested in coordinating their campaigns in cyberspace with those in the real world.

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