Yesterday's edition of the always informative eMarketer newsletter featured new information on the enormous influence the Web wields over the offline economy.  The title of this post says it all.  eMarketer's Multi-Channel Retailing report found that online product research by "Precision Shoppers" is driving far more sales in the offline world than online.  By eMarketer's estimates, Web-influenced store sales totaled $471 billion last year compared to just $136 billion in e-commerce retail sales.  "Precision Shoppers" are those that leverage the wealth of product information available online, from price comparison data to consumer reviews, to find the very best option for an intended purchase. 

eMarketer's insights complement findings from a joint research study conducted by Bazaarvoice and Keller Fay Group late last year: 

Sixty-six percent of respondents that had posted feedback online about a product or service had done so at a retailer website for a purchase made offline.  

It seems that "online product reviews" are far more reflective of offline purchase decisions than online, a fact that should help e-commerce teams command a bit more attention and budget from their brick & mortar counterparts.  With the adoption of ratings & reviews, product questions & answers, and customer stories (read about our latest product, Bazaarvoice Stories) about brands themselves, e-commerce websites are now competing with each other not just on price and product selection but on the quantity, quality, authenticity, and relevance of the information they offer to help shoppers make a purchase, regardless of channel.  

As more of our multi-channel customers begin to leverage their customer-generated content beyond their websites, in catalogs, retail kiosks, in-store signage, and other offline marketing vehicles, the Web's influence on offline purchasing could outpace even the rapid growth of online spending.  

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