PARIS: The internet is playing an increasingly important role in shaping the purchase decisions made by French consumers in the financial services sector.

Médiamétrie//NetRatings and Fevad surveyed 2,450 web users, and reported 45% had looked for category information online during the last six months, with this channel constituting the first source of their research.

The study revealed 37% of those polled had attempted to track down details about banking products, credit and insurance, a 1% annual increase.

By contrast, the number of people visiting a physical branch for the same purpose slipped from 23% to 17%, a total hitting 6% for the telephone, measured against 8% the previous year.

Insurance secured the most interest, with 23% of the panel seeking to discover facts and figures on the internet, standing at 18% regarding credit, and 15% relating to banking.

Some 54% of the study's contributors compared prices, 46% considered competing product features and 39% employed simulation tools, like expenditure calculators.

Among the benefits offered by the web in this area were saving time, on 33%, and flexibility, with 30%.

While 68% of the relevant sample had looked for information on the official sites of financial institutions, this marked a contraction from 73% year on year.

The proportion consulting specialist platforms, such as portals and news sites, rose by two percentage points, to 22%, across the last 12 months.

For 56% of respondents that had turned to the web, the net exerted an important influence in determining which product they ultimately chose, up on 48% in the prior research round.

Another 14% expressed a willingness to switch to an online-only company, reaching 33% where customers wanted to change provider in the next six months.

Reduced banking charges appealed to 65% of this audience, with lower rates posting 58%.

Elsewhere 59% of people who utilised the mobile internet had browsed financial sites, and 49% checked their bank account via this route, growing from 35% on an annual basis.

Other tasks conducted through a handset include identifying the location of a branch, with 24%, reading practical information, logging 22%, and finding out more about products and services, yielding 15%.

Data sourced from Médiamétrie; additional content by Warc staff