MSN Survey: 60% of Women Click on Banners

It’s old news that women outnumber men on the Web, but a new study by Millward Brown suggests that companies should tweak their Web advertising to address women’s willingness to look for online product information.

As the primary decision-maker in household purchases, women represent a crucial market for advertisers, especially in the consumer packaged goods arena. As a result, the study, conducted for MSN by Millward Brown’s technology research group, IntelliQuest, sought to examine how women use the Internet, and how the Web impacts the purchase of consumer packaged goods.

The Redmond, Wash.-based portal said it sponsored the research to help consumer packaged goods manufacturers — Unilever, for instance, is a major MSN advertiser — better understand how best to reach women.

But the research also highlights some insights applicable to the rest of the industry. For instance, the study suggests that women take to the Net to look for actionable offers or relevant product information, and that a sizable chunk of this information-gathering comes from ads.

In fact, of 2,222 female MSN users between the ages of 18 and 54, some 60 percent said they click on banner ads to acquire more information, while 34 percent go back to an advertiser’s site at some point after viewing the ad online.

Seventy-eight percent of those polled said they use the Internet to get product information before they make a purchase. Additionally, more than 60 percent said they felt the Internet saves time, while 33 percent say they do online research before buying consumer packaged goods offline.

The study also broke out behavior of about 900 new mothers — a key demographic for many consumer packaged goods companies. About 32 percent of the new moms in the group said they go to the mall less often, preferring to shop online in many cases. New moms, more so than the general women segment on MSN, also said they seek expert advice and are more likely to visit sites devoted to family, kids and online games.

“While it’s not surprising that today’s busy women are drawn to the Internet’s convenience, marketers may be surprised by the extent to which women look to the Internet for savings and information to aid purchasing decisions,” said MSN national sales director Jed Savage.

The news comes as greater support for online advertising as a branding medium, a tune the industry’s been whistling for some time now, but which finally seems to be catching on among advertisers. A recent Nielsen//NetRatings study suggested that the industry outlook might be better than expected, with branding-oriented traditional clients having purchased more impressions than dot-com advertisers in the second half of the quarter.

With at least some hope for the Internet as a tool for branding, MSN says it’s focusing on helping its advertisers figure out how best to leverage the medium.

“The response to this research has been overwhelmingly positive, as we continue working with our clients to connect this critical audience with their brands on MSN,” Savage said.

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