Web Influences Offline Purchases, Especially Among Teens

The growth rate of e-commerce sales has begun to slow from its torrid pace of recent years, but online consumers continue to use the Web for shopping, if not buying. Ninety-two percent of online consumers use the Internet to shop and/or purchase online, according to a report by The NPD Group, Inc., which shows that even those consumers who aren’t making purchases online are still influenced by what they see on retailers’ Web sites.

Eighty-four percent of occasional buyers, those who say they have made an online purchase only once or less in the past six months, describe their usual use of the Internet for shopping as “I usually shop online and go offline to purchase.”

“Measuring online sales alone cannot capture the full benefit of a retailer having an Internet presence. We know that even consumers who don’t typically purchase online are using retailers’ Web sites to browse and decide what to buy,” said Pamela Smith, vice president of NPD online research. “Although it may not result in a purchase at that time, it could translate directly into an offline sale.”

NPD’s research also found that consumers who currently shop at mass merchandisers say they will likely remain more loyal to traditional store locations for future purchases, while others who have traditionally shopped through catalogs say they are turning to the Web to make more purchases.

How Internet is Used for Shopping
Shop Online, Purchase Offline 51%
Shop Online, Purchase Online 40%
Shop Offline, Purchase Online 9%
Source: NPD Online Research

The largest market for online shoppers who don’t purchase online is most likely teenagers, who are increasingly computer-savvy, but lack credit cards. According to research by Jupiter Media Metrix, 89 percent of teens (ages 13 to 17) have never made an online purchase, but 29 percent research products on the Internet before buying them at stores.

The Jupiter research also found that teens visit the same sites as adults (ages 18 and up) — including popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com and eBay. According to Jupiter analysts, marketers must consider the influence of online window-shopping when developing advertising campaigns and advise companies to incorporate a singular message across multiple ad channels.

“Many teens use the Internet as a shopping mall — a place to meet friends, play games and shop — even without the intent to purchase,” said Jared Blank, Jupiter Media Metrix analyst. “Teens spend almost as much time on Amazon.com as adults, even though few of those teens can make purchases on the site. Marketers need to recognize the value the Web has on influencing purchases that may take place offline.”

Top Web Sites Visited by Teens
April 2001
Web site Unique

Yahoo 5,264
MSN 4,433
AOL.com 3,623
Passport 3,099
Hotmail 3,034
Source: Jupiter Media Metrix

Between April 2000 and April 2001, the growth of the adult online population outpaced the teen population. According to Media Metrix ratings data, the number of adults online increased 18 percent, reaching a total of over 71 million users. The teen population increased 11 percent in April, reaching a total of almost 9 million. The data also reveal that adults go online more often than teenagers — the average adult logged on 15 days in April, while teenagers used the Internet an average of nine days in April.

While shopping sites are popular with teens, Media Metrix data found that teens spend the most number of minutes using the Yahoo and MSN portals and checking email at Hotmail. Teens use these sites intensely, spending 45, 50 and 48 minutes per month on each site, respectively. The data also show that teens spend a considerable amount of time (an average of 52 minutes in April) on eBay. While adults spend much more time on eBay (an average of 112 minutes in April), teens spend a significant amount of time on the site considering they don’t have the checkbook or credit card required to make many of the purchases.

“Integrating online and offline channels is imperative for retailers trying to reach teenagers,” Blank said. “Since so few teenagers purchase online, the Web should be used as an additional means of branding and information dissemination. Players who do this well ensure that their customer communications, whether it’s informational or promotional, share the same messaging on the Web, in their catalogs, and in their stores.”

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