NEW YORK: Digital content is the single most powerful influencer behind buying decisions for the majority of shoppers, according to new research.

'Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers', a study from US network equipment manufacturer Cisco Systems, examined technology-based shopping behaviours and their impact on the retail industry, finding that a large majority (78%) of US shoppers go online to purchase and to research products and services.

Similarly, online ratings and reviews, cited by 52% of respondents, emerged as particularly influential in purchase decisions. Advice from friends and family were mentioned as a major influencer by just 49%.

"It's now very clear," said Dick Cantwell, vice president Retail, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group. "Consumers prefer to shop through bits and bytes, with the majority of shopping behaviours and expectations shaped by online sources."

In addition, results from the report indicated that shoppers increasingly want access to digital content in stores through a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets and touchscreens, with only 4% content to rely on help from store employees all the time.

The report suggested that these consumers – the "digital mass market" – have moved beyond the reach of many brick-and-mortar retailers.

"To shift shoppers into buyers, retailers need to merge online and physical services to meet the demands of today's digital shoppers," stated Cantwell.

Around 40% of US shoppers engage in "showrooming", where consumers check out goods physically in-store before buying them more cheaply online.

But Jon Stine, director of Cisco's Internet business solutions group, speaking at the National Retail Federation's Retail's Big Show 2013, also pointed out what he termed the "65-90 conundrum"

Stine said: "Sixty-five per cent of all US shoppers use the Internet to research products and services, yet 90% of all non-grocery transactions in 2012 occurred in the store."

The new Cisco study also noted an increase in cross-channel shopping journeys involving mobile devices, up 20% on a year earlier.

In the vanguard of this shift is a consumer segment the report termed "Über Digitals", which are the 10% of the of the US population that never shops without technology.

"The smartphone is an extension of their arm," Stine added. "They are self-defined by 'I shop with a smartphone in the store.'"

Data sourced from Cisco/Luxury Daily; additional content by Warc staff