PARIS: Social networks, mobile phones and digital kiosks are playing an increasingly important role in shaping the purchase decisions of French consumers, a survey has found.

Trade body Fevad and research firm Médiamétrie polled 3,321 members of the country's internet population to gauge emerging habits - and reported 86% of web users have visited a website prior to making an acquisition online or in a bricks and mortar stores, up from 81% last year.

More specifically, two-thirds of people accessed search engines, portals and ecommerce hubs, while a further 60% have used consumer reviews as a guide.

Price comparison sites had also previously attracted 49% of customers keen to secure the best deal.

During the six months before the study, 47% of people who surfed the web on a mobile phone did so to identify information about goods and services, and 24% had bought something via this route.

Elsewhere, 35% of contributors used the mobile web in a store, including 36% looking at prices from other vendors, 29% leveraging geo-location tools and 26% finding out about the manufacturer.

Another 10% of individuals had utilised "connected" digital kiosks in a physical shop, suggesting an increasing integration between channels.

"The dichotomy between commerce and ecommerce is disappearing," said Marc Lolivier, managing director of Fevad.

"Consumers can always log on to a store or connect from a store. They can look for a product or service at any time, and decide whether to buy it online or in store."

Overall, 56% of the sample had already posted comments about a brand on the net, and 66% perused the remarks of their peers when on the path to purchase.

Moreover, 88% of this latter audience agreed their ultimate decision had been influenced by what they read.

Looking to social media, 16% of people had signed up as a brand fan on sites like Facebook, with 49% doing so to receive information, 47% interested in promotions, and 41% enthusiastic about new product updates.

Only 2% expressed a willingness to buy something directly through a Web 2.0 platform, the research revealed.

Travel tickets and accommodation, entertainment content like CDs, books and DVDs, clothing and electronics remain among the most frequently-purchased products online.

But electrical appliances, spare parts for cars and sporting equipment are also experiencing rising demand.

Over the last six months, 40% of contributors had made purchases via the website for SNCF, the rail operator, ahead of pure-play retailer Amazon's 37%, and entertainment group Fnac's 33%.

Cdiscount, an online rival to Fnac, logged 30%, while fashion and homeware giant La Redoute posted 25%, closing out the top five.

When assessing their ecommerce experiences across this period, 97% of the panel provided a favourable response, a one-point improvement on 2010.

Data sourced from Mediametrie; additional content by Warc staff