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Online Research Drives Offline Sales

Here comes the “Precision Shopper.”

Any retailer who isn’t using the online channel to promote offline sales—as well as online sales—is missing a sizable opportunity.

”Today, online consumers think nothing of shopping across a retailer’s stores, Website and catalog,” says Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer Senior Analyst and author of the new report, Multi-Channel Retailing, “As a consequence, online product research is driving more in-store sales than online sales.”

Last year, eMarketer estimated that store sales influenced by online research totaled $471 billion. Comparatively, retail e-commerce sales were only $136 billion.

Looked at another way, for every $1 in online sales, the Internet influenced $3.45 of store sales.

”Online consumers are becoming precision shoppers,” says Mr. Grau. “They are availing themselves of the wealth of information resources online to discover and evaluate products, compare them and find where they can be purchased.”

Mounting research shows that a significant percentage of store purchases are influenced by online product research.

In addition, the “eHoliday Mood Study,” conducted during last year’s holiday shopping season by Shop.org, showed that 63% of US online buyers made their holiday purchases in two or even three retail channels.

The percent of respondents who used more than one channel would have been even higher if consumers who researched products in one channel then bought them in another were included.

According to eMarketer estimates, combined Web-influenced store sales and retail e-commerce sales accounted for 15% of retail sales in 2007. By 2012, the percentage will nearly double to 28%.

Forrester Research, in contrast, reported that Web-influenced store sales plus e-commerce sales accounted for 27% of retail sales in 2007—almost twice eMarketer’s estimate.

”As much as online shopping is a convenience and the online shopping experience continuously improves, people are not about to abandon stores anytime soon,” says Mr. Grau.

So if your cross-channel marketing capabilities are still in the early stages of development, don’t despair. As Mr. Grau says, “The majority of multi-channel retailers still have work to do to resolve organizational and IT issues that stand in their path.”

Find out more about how online is influencing offline sales, download the new eMarketer report, Multi-Channel Retailing, today.

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