Study: Most online shoppers still buy off-line

Sixty-three percent of consumers who conduct online searches for various products actually end up buying those items off-line, according to study released Tuesday by comScore Networks.

The results of the study also show that 25 percent of searchers purchased items directly related to their queries, and 37 percent completed their purchases online.

The study, which looked at the role of search in consumer buying and was sponsored by Google, examined the impact of Web searches (excluding comparison-shopping sites) on consumers' holiday-related purchases -- both online and off-line -- in 11 product categories during November and December 2005. The study reflects the search behavior of 83 million Americans who conducted more than 552 million searches in the categories analyzed using one or more of 24 leading search engines, comScore said in a statement.

"The study confirms the important role of search in influencing consumers' purchase behavior, both online and off-line," James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Search Marketing Solutions, said in the statement. "Importantly, it's clear from this study that the influence of search on off-line buying can often be responsible for the major portion of the overall financial return from investments in search marketing."

According to the study, 43 percent of consumers who searched online for apparel and accessories actually made a purchase, with 65 percent of those shoppers buying at brick-and-mortar stores and the rest buying online. In comparison, while just 17 percent of consumers who searched for video games and consoles actually followed their search with a purchase, 93 percent of those who bought did so off-line, according to comScore.

ComScore also analyzed the time lag between consumers' initial searches and their later purchases during November and December. Like other comScore studies, this one found that 56 percent of consumers' online holiday buying actually happened in subsequent Internet sessions.

In addition, among the 83 million shoppers whose behavior was studied during the holiday season, the 8.6 million who subsequently bought online were much more likely to search across all product categories. Those consumers performed almost 10 times the number of searches conducted by nonbuyers, according to the study. The study also indicates that 60 percent of all searchers started their search process before Nov. 15, 2005.

"This is likely due to the aggressive pricing and marketing programs that were implemented in 2005 by many retailers prior to Thanksgiving, which apparently caused consumers to begin their shopping process earlier than normal," according to comScore. "For search advertisers, these statistics imply that holiday-season advertising budgets should be sufficiently large and applied early enough to cover for the aggressive search behavior of buyers."

ComScore also found that online searches helped consumers make their decisions about which gifts to purchase.

According to the study, more than 80 percent of consumers viewed search as helpful for purchasing gifts, seven in 10 claimed it was influential in helping to find gifts and more than three out of five said they would likely use search the next time they go to purchase a gift.

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Linda Rosencrance

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