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I spent some time on the phone this afternoon with Stuart McKelvey, CEO of TMP Directional Marketing, to ask for his key takeaways from TMP’s recent local shopping research conducted via comScore’s online panel of 3,000 consumers. The finding that more of the respondents cite online media (IYP, local search and general search) than print directories as their primary resource for finding local businesses has generated a fair amount of attention.

Here are a few highlights of our discussion:

  • Because the survey was conducted using an online panel, calling the results evidence of a “tipping point” from print to online is going too far. McKelvey believes a survey with a representative sample would be necessary to reach that conclusion.
  • Print did OK given that the survey was conducted with an online panel. “The fact that print Yellow Pages got the largest response was surprising to us.” He refers to the 33 percent who said print YP was their primary source of local business information, compared with 17 percent for IYP, 30 percent for search engines and 13 percent for local search sites.
  • In his view, the findings that 91 percent says print directories (Yellow and White Pages) are still valuable and 71 percent call print a trusted source of business information suggest lingering dissatisfaction with the accuracy of online business listings.
  • “Online drives offline — big time,” he said. One finding supporting this assertion: 40 percent of respondents make a purchase in person after looking up a business online, compared with 6 percent who purchase online and 15 percent by phone.

McKelvey told us that TMP conducted the research because “these are the questions our clients are asking us.” He said TMP hopes to conduct additional waves using the same online panel. Ideally, he would like to put the same questions to a representative sample of the U.S. population using a phone-based survey, though no decision has been made to go down that path, which is increasingly difficult and costly in the age of caller ID and empowered consumers. Such a sample would help answer whether the findings of the online panel reflect a true tipping point in the migration of usage from offline to online or are just an example of an online sample favoring online solutions.

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