retail search presence studyA three year project, The Retail Search Presence Study, finds (not altogether surprisingly) that online retailers are winning over their traditional counterparts when it comes to visibility on the Big Three search engines.

The study, conducted by Internet-Engine, entailed visiting and categorizing over 6,000 web pages found via search during the holiday shopping season. Online retailers easily dominated returned results on all the engines, with over 30 percent of the listings. Bricks-and-mortar retailer results appeared in a mere 12 percent of searches.

Given consumers are performing over 10 billions searches each month, and that 24 percent of all offline purchases are influenced by the Internet (Forrester Research), the study’s findings point to a serious gap in offline retailers’  commitment to and investment in Web marketing — particularly at a time in which online shopping is growing at the expense of Main Street and big box retailers.

Even manufacturers, which do not sell directly to consumers, appear more often in search results than do offline stores.

The gap widens when results are parsed between paid and organic results. Traditional retailers appear in only 2 percent of total organic listings, versus 17 percent for ecommerce sites, 11 percent for shopping comparison sites, and 11 percent for manufacturer sites.

“Traditional retailers may not be keeping up with changes in consumer behavior since they are relying on a brand-push marketing strategy while the on-line retailers using search marketing present a consumer-pull strategy, meaning the product is presented to the consumer by the search engines when the consumer is looking for information about that specific product, when they are ready to buy,” said Thom Disch, Internet-Engine’s CEO and the director of the study. “This may be contributing to some of the major retailer bankruptcies we have seen recently such as Linen ‘n Things, Circuit City, Tower Records, and FAO Schwartz.”