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Stuart McKelvey, president and CEO of TMP Directional Marketing, gave ILM:07 attendees a second look at their online user study to help clarify its results and provide insight on how this can serve to help more effectively plan both online and offline media. National advertisers drove the demand to track this information for both online and offline purchase influences to better understand how to appropriately balance their media spending.

One of the main findings of the research, conducted in partnership with comScore, is that local search happens at the end of the buying process after consumers have figured out what they want to buy and move on to where they want to purchase the product or service. “The local search process seems to broaden as consumers begin to narrow who they want to purchase from and how much they want to pay,” McKelvey said. Local price promotions, sales, coupons, financing options are considerations in the local search process — and how can they get to the business offering quickly (are they close and at the best price). The business location and service area is critical information for advertisers to include in their online advertising.

One of the more surprising findings is that brand awareness greatly influences where consumers search. “General search site usage increases with high brand awareness,” according to McKelvey. “In the absence of brand awareness then proximity becomes the major driving force for consumers in their purchase decision.”

While there is a great focus on moving advertisers online, the reality, based on the research, is that the majority of purchases take place offline either in a store visit or in a phone call. Post-search activity is the same across general, local and IYP in that the majority either go to the store or make a phone call — advertisers simply can’t rely on an online-only transaction model in local (80 percent of post-search activity is offline). Surprisingly, of those who had an unsuccessful local search, the print Yellow Pages remains the top resource.

The bottom line is that advertisers need to better measure where customers are coming from in order to maximize their media budgets. This has been the mantra of publishers for years, but the TMP/comScore study clearly indicates advertisers must take advantage of multiple measurements to be sure they are getting high ROI and value.

McKelvey concluded by saying “Online and offline tracking is needed to fully realize the value of each media, thus assisting in the proper alignment of media mix and investment.” Print and online continue to complement each other, and it is important for media companies and advertisers to understand this synergy and spend on media appropriately to drive the best ROI and cost of sales goals.

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