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TV, Print Trigger Net Searches

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SAN FRANCISCO Traditional advertising plays a key role in prompting consumers to search for merchandise online, according to a study by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) and BIGresearch.

Roughly half of the consumers told researchers they take cues from TV, magazine and newspaper ads to determine when and where to shop online. In order of preference, 47 percent said they turned to magazine ads, followed by TV commercials and newspaper ads at 43 percent each. (Respondents could choose more than one medium.)

In-store promotions motivated 27 percent to search for products online. When it came to coupons, far more women than men used them for online guidance, at 42 percent of women versus 29 percent of men.

The survey findings seem to reinforce the evidence that many marketing agencies are collecting, which indicates online and offline marketing programs work better than online-only or offline-only campaigns. "When it comes to advertising, retailers always need to be careful not to put all of their eggs in one basket," said Mike Gatti, executive director of RAMA.

"While search engine marketing continues to be a popular strategy, retailers should not lose sight of traditional advertising channels to promote products and services," Gatti said.

Shoppers use the Internet as a resource before determining which items to buy and where. According to the survey, 92.5 percent of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store. Products that are most often researched online are electronics, apparel and appliances. Men were twice as likely as women to shop for automobiles online, 20 percent to 10 percent, respectively.

"Retailers must realize that online communities are now producers and are able to extend the distribution of traditional media with a trust and truth not even approximated by mass media," said Joe Pilotta, vp at BIGresearch.

The study surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in November and December 2006. RAMA released its analysis of the survey last week.