The presents have been purchased, given, opened and put away, and now we denizens of digital media must pay homage to the resilience of humble paper marketing that drove the purchase of those gifts. The Baynote Group's yearly shopping study has found that paper catalogs influenced holiday shopping behavior more than Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook.

The Group’s 3nd Annual Holiday Online Shopping Survey, conducted in partnership with the e-tailing Group, found that the rising influence of social media platforms “paled in comparison” to the paper catalog in influencing holiday shopping. The survey results indicated that, for all ages, paper catalogs influenced many more consumers than Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for in-store and online purchases.

Older Versus Younger

When divided by age groups, social platforms were, unsurprisingly, more influential for shoppers 25 to 34, while catalogs were the big mover for those 45 and over.

The younger shoppers were most responsive to email promotion for in-store purchases, influencing slightly more than 70 percent of those buying decisions, while the leading influence on three-quarters of online buying decisions among this age group were both email promotion and online ratings/reviews.

By contrast, paper catalogs were far and away the biggest influence for those 45 and over -- about three-quarters of in-store buying decisions, and 85 percent of online ones. For all ages, paper catalogs narrowly beat email promotion for in-store, 71 percent to 70 percent, and narrowly lost to email promotion for online purchases, 80 percent to 82 percent.

Nevertheless, paper catalogs were roughly twice as influential than any of the kings of social media -- Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter -- for both in-store and online.

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The San Jose, California-based Baynote offers personalized customer experience solutions for retailers across touchpoints, and its survey was conducted from Cyber Monday (November 26) through December 5 with 1000 respondents. All those surveyed had smartphones, 54 percent also had tablets and all respondents made four or more purchases and spent more than US$ 250.

Tablets Over Smartphones

Dan Darnell, Baynote VP of Marketing, said in a statement that “successful organizations recognize that all direct to consumer efforts are part of an omni-channel strategy to reach different consumer segments.” He pointed to the continuing need for reinforcing marketing across all channels, in order to create a “seamless experience across touch points” -- a strategy which is often emphasized by marketing and CRM software vendors in the age of multi-channel surfing consumers.

For connected consumers, it appears that tablets are more important than smartphones for gift browsing and for completing transactions. Forty percent of tablet owners used their device for browsing possible purchases, while only 28.4 percent used their smartphone in this way.

Tablets, the study found, are looking like they may become the dominant shopping tool even in a domain where smartphones were thought to reign -- inside the physical stores themselves -- with the study showing that consumers use tablets while shopping to conduct mobile product research or to search for store-related coupons.

Investments by retailers and others in mobile apps are paying off, but not across all age groups. An average of 32 percent of consumers aged 18 to 44 made a purchase using a mobile app, while only about 14 percent of those 45 and older did so.

Baynote also found that digital marketing influenced about a third of online purchases, and about a quarter of in-store ones -- a difference Baynote called “minor,” and which again supports the need for an omni-channel marketing strategy.

While respondents are wary about privacy issues -- for instance, nearly 65 percent were concerned about privacy when using their smartphone for shopping -- the study found that only about 15 percent of respondents chose not to make purchases with those devices because of privacy concerns. Tablets and personal computers showed similar proportions.