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Online Reviews Influence Shoppers Most, but Print Catalogs Trump Social Networks

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Although online channels such as ratings and reviews, search results, and email promotions influence online shoppers' purchases most, traditional paper catalogs also hold sway, according to a survey from Baynote and the e-tailing group. Meanwhile, social networking sites are the least effective channel for influencing shoppers whether they are making purchases in-store or online.

Below, additional findings Baynote's survey of smartphone-owning online shoppers, conducted during the 2012 holiday shopping season.

Among online shoppers surveyed, online ratings and reviews were cited as the most influential source of information when making online (33%) and in-store purchases (24%). Search results via Google were the second most influential source of information for online and in-store purchases (26% and 19%, respectively), followed by email promotions (25% and 19%, respectively).

Even so, people still love their paper catalogs: 22% of smartphone owners cited print catalogs as the most influential source of information when making online purchases, and 21% cited paper catalogs for in-store purchases.


By contrast, social media sites exert less influence over purchases.

Across popular social networking sites, Facebook had the most influence whether buying online (15%) or in stores (12%). Pinterest and Twitter were nearly tied for second place. 

Meanwhile, roughly 1 in 10 online shoppers cited mobile ads as most influential when making online (10%) and in-store (11%) purchases.

Making the Final Purchase

Ultimately, cost matters most to people: 47% of online shoppers cited price as the ultimate influencer for making a final purchase, while 38% cited free shipping.

However, in the hyper-competitive retail market, factors such as the availability of a product (35%), merchant reputation (33%), product reviews (29%), and return policy (24%) still sway buyers.

Tablets vs. Smartphones

During the 2012 holiday season, consumers favored tablets over smartphones when browsing, shopping, and transacting online:

  • 65% of tablet owners used their device to browse websites in advance of buying vs. 50% of smartphone owners who did so.
  • 62% of tablet owners used their device to compare prices before a store visit vs. 49% of smartphone owners who did so.
  • 57% of tablet owners used their device to make a purchase on a website vs. 43% of smartphone owners who did so.
  • 51% of tablet owners used their device to get coupons and offers vs. 46% of smartphone owners who did so.

About the data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,000 consumers fielded by the e-tailing group for Baynote, Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, 2012. Respondents had shopped online more than four times in the previous year, spending $250+ annually. All respondents owned a smartphone and 55% owned a tablet.


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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Frank Thu Mar 21, 2013 via web

    Question: Since paper catalogs are rare, can these consumers also be refering to newspaper circulars?

  • by Jen Thu Mar 21, 2013 via web

    Hi Frank,

    It is possible they were referring to other types of paper ads. However, the intent of the survey question was the glossy catalog, not the circular or weekly delivered in newspaper format.

  • by Cat Thu Mar 21, 2013 via web

    Is that survey done in the US market?

  • by Sven Fri Mar 22, 2013 via web

    Are all the 1000 consumers that participated in this survey US citizens?

  • by Marti Tedesco Fri Mar 22, 2013 via web

    In putting together the study, the intention of the question was to find out more about the glossy, branded catalog, not a daily or weekly circular. We believe that the answers reflected this intention and are speaking to the glossy, not the circular. I look after Marketing at Baynote and we were surprised by the answers as well, but looking back it does make sense as the catalog is yet another channel in this omni-channel world of retailing.
    In answer to the other questions, we surveyed 1,000 domestic US shoppers. As to whether or not they are all citizens, we did not specifically ask respondents to declare citizenship.
    Thanks for reading our study and we hope you found it useful.

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