Survey: Multi-Channel Buyers Worth Pursuing

More consumers are combining online and offline channels to do their shopping, according to a recent survey conducted by DoubleClick, Beyond Interactive and Greenfield Online.

The survey, performed during the 2001-2002 holiday season, found that 35 percent of about 3,800 consumers shopped using a combination of catalogs, in-store visits, and the Internet. Of that group, 66 percent said they browsed using one channel while purchasing in another. Fifty-four percent of this group combined retail stores and the Internet, while 22 percent used all three channels.

Women exhibited this behavior more often than men: 46 percent used the Web before making an in-store purchase, while 37 percent purchased in-store after using a catalog. Those figures are 3 percent and 9 percent higher than for men, respectively.

What makes this good news for click-and-mortar retailers and catalog marketers is that multi-channel shoppers tend to spend more than shoppers that use only one channel.

Consumers that shopped using the Web, retail stores and catalogs spent an average of $995 on their holiday purchases, 41 percent more than the average spent shoppers that used a single channel. Consumers that combined two channels during their shopping spent an average of $894.

The findings also bode well for sellers of online advertising and marketing services. In-store retail continues to dominate the shopping landscape, earning 64 percent of the average consumer’s holiday spending (online accounted for about 26 percent, while catalogs saw the balance). Nevertheless, while consumers spent about 1 percent less than during the previous year, close to 50 percent of the study’s respondents actually said they had increased their online spending.

As a result, the findings suggest that retailers with only a terrestrial presence would be well served by creating online and catalog channels. If they had to pick between developing a Web site or catalog operations, there’s now more evidence to suggest that the Internet might be the best investment.

“Results from this data demonstrate the need for marketers to have tools in place in order to better measure how one channel is driving sales to another channel,” said DoubleClick president David Rosenblatt. “Consumers will continue to browse in one channel and purchase in another, reflecting their goal to find the best selection, service and pricing. Tracking these results by channel represents an enormous opportunity for marketers if they align their promotional dollars with this trend.”

That’s to be expected from DoubleClick, which has long been preaching the worth of multi-channel marketing. (While it generates most of its income from Internet advertising technology and sales, the New York-based firm also owns Abacus Direct, an offline co-op database.)

But aligning Internet marketing alongside traditional channels also is believed by many to be good for the Internet ad industry at large, by getting in on the mega-bucks routinely spent by advertisers on broadcast and print media. To that end, groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Online Publishers Association have taken tentative steps toward ironing out accountability and tracking problems in Web publishing, and toward establishing metrics similar to those used in TV.

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