LONDON: The web has an important role in shaping purchase habits, but marketers must balance "paid", "earned" and "owned" assets to make a mark, an international study from Initiative has found.

Alongside polling 4,031 people in Australia, China, Germany, Spain and the US, Initiative conducted focus groups in China, Colombia, Thailand, Italy, the UK and US, combining the results with econometric analysis.

Overall, 52% of adults "enjoyed" searching the web for information about brands, a figure hitting 66% for cars but declining to 29% for shampoo, with enthusiasm peaking in China and Spain.

Moreover, 45% of customers are spending greater amounts of time making purchase decisions, rising to nearly 60% when considering which mobile phone to buy.

Indeed, 56% of interviewees claimed the internet had "significantly changed the way they shop", again reaching a high for mobile phones, on 73%.

Elsewhere, 58% of participants would not buy a mobile brand if they failed to find the "right" information online, standing at 55% for TVs and PCs and 54% for cars, all above the average of 43%.

Some 54% of the survey community often share branded material, including coupons and deals, via email and social media, with 39% doing so for information purposes, and 27% as "it has become a natural part of their life".

Looking at the shampoo category, trusting a brand was the main purchase driver for 27% of Chinese consumers, while price was key for 29% of Australians, and 22% of Germans wanted a product that "suited their hair".

TV was the primary trust driver for shampoo brands in Australia, trials and word of mouth were most important in Spain, and "owned" media assumed such a status in the US, where seeing brands in discount stores had negative connotations.

Based on 67 modelling exercises, Initiative found 50% of earned media was directly influenced by paid and owned media.

Among leading German automakers, for example, 37% of online buzz resulted from a visit to a brand website, while 60% of WOM in the Australian shampoo sector was fuelled by paid media.

Initiative's studies also revealed that 10% of mobile handset sales in the US are attributable to word of mouth.

Data sourced from Initiative; additional content by Warc staff