The wishful thinking of e-commerce evangelists notwithstanding, the vast majority of consumer spending still takes place offline in the local bricks-and mortar world. But a large portion of those sales are influenced by online research, which is rapidly migrating from the desktop to mobile devices, according to a new report by marketing research firm eMarketer on how consumers find nearby retailers.
Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of consumers did online research before visiting a local business or restaurant, according to a Harris Interactive survey cited by eMarketer. Almost half (43 percent) of those searches were done through Google, putting it in first place, 13 percentage points ahead of online yellow pages. Consumers also checked review sites (13 percent) and Facebook (12 percent).
"While online sales are measured in billions of dollars, the store sales influenced by web research are worth trillions of dollars," said Jeffrey Grau, author of the eMarketer report. "The desktop has been the prevalent place for cross-channel shoppers to do online research, but there are signs that a significant share of this activity is shifting to mobile and social platforms."
The shift to research on the fly as smartphone and mobile Internet use increase has not been ignored by retailers, who have a high regard for the value of smartphones in driving traffic to their stores. According to a study by Retail Systems Research, the percentage of retailers worldwide that said smartphones have a lot of value in driving traffic increased from 20 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2011.
"Mobile in-store shoppers present an opportunity for store-based retailers," Grau said. "Retailers that invest in mobile technologies not only stave off competitors but create a more convenient and rewarding shopping experience. For consumers, the ability to easily find product information and access coupons and rewards, in turn, inspires customer loyalty."