That was the finding of research from Channel Force, a training and merchandising consulting company, conducted on behalf of Yahoo.
The researchers conducted 1,100 in-person interviews at Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's and Target stores in February and March. They included people who shopped for products, but did not buy anything, as well as purchasers who bought something during their store visit.
"We've known that the brand experience begins well before the shopper walks into the store, and this study confirms how critical the in-store experience is to the consumer's decision and the opportunity for the sales staff to educate, support and upsell," said Kurt Higgins, president, Channel Force.
The Internet was the top resource for researching digital cameras and televisions, with 75% of those who researched a purchase beforehand going online to do so. The leading online resources were retail Web sites (73%), manufacturer Web sites (68%), and search engines (49%).
"Manufacturers have a huge opportunity here--even if they don't sell products online, their online efforts are impacting what people are buying in stores," said David Rubinstein, senior director of the technology and telecommunications category for Yahoo Search Marketing. "Those sites could be used more for branding purposes."
Purchasers who used search engines spent on average $31 more on digital cameras and $139 more on TVs. This group used twice as many research sources (5.7 sources) as non-searchers (2.5 sources).
Some 55% of the people who came into the store did so with specific brands in mind. More than 80% of these consumers who do product research before hitting the store end up buying one of the brands they were originally considering. The remaining 20% said in-store salespeople were highly influential.
For all the research, consumers are often unsure about the advanced features of their product. About 75% didn't know the model they wanted when they got to the store.
"What is unique is we were talking to people in the store right after they made a purchase. It's not about recall," Rubinstein added.