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No impulse buyers on Web

According to a new study, most Internet sales are made to customers who came to the Web with every intention to buy.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, most Internet sales aren't impulse buys but are made to customers who came to the Web intending to buy, according to a new, limited study by a firm that runs an Internet shopping mall.

The survey by ViaWeb, which operates an Internet mall called Viamall and markets its Live Store tools to build Web stores, evaluated buyers' activity based on which keyword searches brought them to the stores.

The study also found that while some search engines generate lots of hits, others are more likely to produce buyers.

"Keywords show that most online shoppers intend to buy before they even reach your site," Viaweb president Paul Graham said in a statement. "It's not enough just to bring more people to your site. You need to attract the ones who intend to buy. And to find them, you need tracking tools."

Viaweb based its survey on a random sampling of 200 shoppers who placed orders in February and March at the 125 stores that it hosts. Viaweb's tracking tools found that search keywords used by 141 of the 200 buyers, or 70.5 percent, indicated they intended to buy when they did the search, before even reaching the store.

Of those 141, 92 searched for the item that they bought, 47 searched for the name of the store they bought from, and two searched for "gifts." Of the remaining 59 buyers, 32 searched for a topic related to what they bought, 19 used search keywords unrelated to what they bought, and 8 searched for the name of another product.

Tracking tools can tell merchants where visitors come from, what search engines and terms are they using, snf what banner ads generate the most revenue.

This new data suggests that merchants should not strive to maximize hits but to use tools to find Web surfers who intend to buy, Graham said. Don't advertise on the most popular sites, he advised, but on the sites that send the most sales.

Viamall tenants include Rolling Stone magazine, Star Trek: 30 Years, Frederick's of Hollywood, The X-Store (X-Files merchandise), and food shop Dean & DeLuca.