Revealing Online-Offline Shopping Patterns

Despite the growing body of evidence that the dominant consumer paradigm is online shopping-offline spending many people (including some analysts) still don’t connect the dots. They continue discuss e-commerce as a silo as though they were oblivious to what’s happening in the real world. A new study from shopping site Krillion and the E-Tailing Group makes that e-commerce-centric view harder to maintain.

Here are the details on the study, just out this morning:

  • Survey completed February 2008
  • 1,000 consumers; 50% male, 50% female
  • Spend at least $500 online annually
  • Purchase online at least 4x per year

The study highlights the role of Internet information resources, the retailer channel, and web-to-store convenience options offered online—such as in-store pickup and inventory availability—in shaping consumer purchase decisions.

The findings are actually fairly nuanced and reflect increasingly complex and informed online consumer purchase behavior. The study also presents considerable actionable information for product manufactures and retailers about critical website features and content, as well gender differences in behavior and shopping lead times. There’s a lot there so it’s a bit unfair for me to characterize it as purely confirming the ROBO (as Yahoo! calls it) phenomenon.

I won’t summarize all the findings (ppt slides here). However there are a few points from the survey I want to emphasize.

The most important online product resources were (in order of importance):

  1. Manufacturer websites
  2. Retailer websites
  3. Search engines
  4. Shopping comparison sites
  5. Consumer magazines online
  6. Portals and other directories
  7. Blogs

Given the general importance of online reviews, it’s a bit surprising to see blogs faring so poorly.

Here are two interesting charts from the survey (both can be expanded by clicking). The first goes to essential content/features on shopping sites, with the most essential being product inventory status. The second shows (by product category) the complexity of purchase behavior today with the Internet and local stores being used by consumers in a majority of shopping scenarios:



As this second chart illustrates local store visits are involved in most of the scenarios and most purchases take place locally as well. Here are the scenarios across product categories in order of commonality:

  1. A combination of store visits and online research where final purchase would be at the local store
  2. Research online and buy at a local store
  3. Go to a local store to research, make my final selection and purchase
  4. Research online, buy online
  5. A combination of store visits and online research where final purchase would be online

Stepping back, I’m not trying to argue that there is a simple, linear process where consumers do their research on the Internet and then go straight to a local retailers or big box stores to fulfill. There’s lots of complexity and “back and forth” going on now and lots of information being processed during the “purchase cycle.” In a way, the findings of this survey are a mirror of the circuitous, helter-skelter use of search by consumers in the buying process.

But it cannot be disputed that most consumers are using the Internet primarily as a research tool before making purchases in local markets. And as the “local inventory” infrastructure (buy/reserve online-pick up in store and store locators) becomes more prevalent, we should see that consumer pattern further accentuated.


Shopping engine also offers in-store availability according to MediaPost.

9 Responses to “Revealing Online-Offline Shopping Patterns”

  1. » New Krillion Survey Highlights Consumer Sophistication Pay Per Click Journal Says:

    […] Greg Sterling at Screenwerk highlights the most important online resources for product research: 1. Manufacturer websites 2. Retailer websites 3. Search engines 4. Shopping comparison sites 5. Consumer magazines online 6. Portals and other directories 7. Blogs […]

  2. Tim Cohn Says:

    The brand managers who understand this will rule their markets.

  3. Local Inventory Data Gaining Momentum « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Gaining Momentum In my Locals Only column at Search Engine Land today I unpack the recent Krillion-E-Tailing Group study on Web2Store consumer behavior in a bit more […]

  4. RFID and the Future of Local Inventory « Screenwerk Says:

    […] won’t go into my standard rant about what consumers really want is local product information . . . you can fill in the […]

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