Nielsen Says Internet Essential to Offline Retail

According to Nielsen Online, a service of The Nielsen Company, the Web plays an increasingly integral role in retail for brick and mortar retailers, even among purchases that occur in-store. A Nielsen survey in May 2008 found that among a representative group of people who had recently made consumer electronics purchases in a brick and mortar store, 80 percent bought from a store whose Web site they visited first. Further, 53 percent purchased from the retailer on whose Web site they had spent the most time.

While the benefits of online sales have long been apparent to retailers, the ability of the Internet to drive offline sales is now rising to the fore. Among consumer electronics purchasers, 58 percent indicated that if they had only one channel in which to do product research prior to purchase, they would choose the Internet, compared with only 25 percent that would choose to be able to do research in a brick and mortar store.

"A strong Web presence with broad and deep online content is critical for all retailers, including brick and mortar stores," said Ken Cassar, vice president, industry insights, Nielsen Online. "Surprisingly enough, the industry that retailers should look to for guidance on multi-channel integration is the media industry, which has embraced the notion of content portability, allowing their consumers to easily consume content wherever they are with whatever device they prefer. Retailers that are able to facilitate consumers' multi-channel shopping behaviors will enjoy growth in market share across the enterprise."

Respondents were asked: If you were only able to use one source of information to support your next consumer electronics purchase, which would you choose? These are information sources ranked by preference among consumers (including percentage of respondants): Internet (58), Visit to local stores (25), Reviews in newspapers/magazines (8), Friends and family (8), Other (1).

Low Consideration Categories

Even in product categories that involve less research before purchase, the Web plays an important part in the information gathering process. Nielsen's survey showed that 44 percent of pet food consumers went online to learn more about the product. Safety was top of mind for these consumers, who were most interested in nutritional specifications, product ingredients and recall information in their online research (see below).

These are the top five topics among consumers researching pet food online (including percentage of respondants): Learn about nutritional specifications (48), learn about product ingredients (45), learn about recalls (45), learn more about safety issues (40), find sales/promotions (40).

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