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Online shoppers still buy offline

A new study shows that most people who use Web searches to look for products end up purchasing them offline. The study, set to be released on Tuesday, was sponsored by Google and conducted by ComScore Networks. It shows that 25 percent of Web searchers purchased an item directly related to their query. Within that group, 37 percent completed the purchase online, and 63 percent bought the item offline.

The study looked at the impact of Web search on consumers' holiday-related purchases, excluding comparison shopping sites. It reflects the searching behavior of 83 million Americans who conducted more than 552 million searches in the 11 categories analyzed using at least one of the 24 leading search engines.

The fact that so many people are making search-related purchases offline, which can't be measured as easily as related online sales, shows that search advertising is even more valuable than previously viewed, said James Lamberti, vice president of ComScore Marketing Solutions. The results "speak to the importance of search as a part of a marketer's overall advertising strategy," he said. "I don't think there is ever going to be a time when a consumer makes major purchases purely over the Internet. There is still the desire to have the tangible in-store experience." The percentage of online purchases rose slightly from previous studies, but the fact that the study was done during the holiday shopping season may have affected that, Lamberti said.