Who would have thought that nearly 40% of online searchers make a purchase after being influenced by an offline channel? You would expect some influence, yes, but that significant?

That’s exactly what the results from a recent iProspect study looking into offline influence on online search behaviour indicate…

But there’s more for digital marketers to digest. Unfashionable offline is effective in its own right, and much of offline is converging with online. For example, more people listen to digital radio on PCs and TVs than on their radios according to OMD Metrics. People watch television with a laptop and mobile to hand. And it cannot be too long before RFID technology in mobiles interacts with electronic billboards and then to the web.

After all, Japanese customers of mobile operator DoCoMo have been using the FeliCa chip in a mobile wallet for years. They pass their mobiles over ticket readers in exactly the same way that Londoners pass their Oyster Cards over underground ticket readers.

It is only a small step from the mobile to the ticket reader, and from the mobile to the billboard. Good reason for digital marketers to get familiar with offline media.

So to the future, as we travel escalators in underground stations, it is likely that electronic posters will interrogate our RFID-enhanced mobiles as we pass by. Permission-enabled of course.

Electronic billboards will display advertisements appropriate to our interests. Retailers will be able to offer variable pricing based on time of day. And mobile operators will be able to generate retailer footfall by advising mobile users of retailer offers nearby.

And the technology? It’s available right now. The missing ingredient is merely the commercial model to make this brave new world a reality.

Back to the offline present, there are obvious synergies between TV and the internet. Although the IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers state that television advertising spend in 2009 accounted for 21.9% of the total, versus the internet’s 23.5%, that’s not the end of the story.

Television may no longer be the medium of default, but it still returns an average £4.55 sales for every £1 spent. That’s a better average return on investment than for any other medium. Depending on the product, service and audience, knowledge of TV strengths and buying currencies can give the digital marketer serious competitive advantage.

Then, there’s radio. It offers the ability to target locally or nationally and different stations offer definable audiences at specified times. Although most listeners are engaged in activities other than listening, whilst listening, advertisers reach listeners at key “touchpoints.” But the thing to know about radio is that it is shown to be a big multiplier of the effect of other media advertising.

Take print. There are so many publications to appeal to practically every niche and market sector. In the UK, there are over 4,800 business publications, over 3,200 consumer publications and over 1,000 customer publications. And with traditional newspapers as well as free papers, the mass market can be reached easily. Print co-ordinated with online campaigns can boost the online effect massively.

And finally I return to Outdoor. 95% of the UK’s top advertisers use Outdoor. They spend just under £1bn annually. So if you want to target clubbers, bankers or brokers; the young or the old; the fashionable or the scruffy, London Underground offers a captive audience of around three million people a day.

The iProspect study asked users what prompted them to search online for a particular company, product, service or slogan. The results were:

  • Television advertisement: 44%
  • Word of Mouth: 41%
  • Magazine/Newspaper Advertisement: 35%
  • Radio: 23%
  • Billboard: 13%

These figures provide a signpost to digital marketers. They show the importance of knowing the strengths and compatibilities of all channels, buying currencies and means of measurement. Offline needs to be considered as part of any marketing mix.

So to the question, who would have thought that nearly 40% of online searchers make a purchase after being influenced by an offline channel? The answer is top digital marketers.

So let me invite you to join some of them at Econsultancy’s one day course on Offline Marketing Principles – An Introduction on 18th March. In addition to covering the principles of marketing, it will also cover TV, Radio, Print and Outdoor.