The internet plays an important role in how people conduct research for purchases, but it is just one among a variety of sources people use and usually not the key factor in final purchasing decisions. A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "The Internet and Consumer Choice," tracks the decision-making processes for buying music, purchasing a cell phone, and buying or renting a home. Here are the top three sources used in product research for each of the three products.
For those who have bought music in the prior year:
Among those who have purchased a cell phone in the prior year:
For those who have rented or bought new housing in the prior year:
Even though many buyers use the internet in product research, relatively few say online information had a major impact on the product choice they eventually made. Only 7% of music buyers, 10% of cell phone buyers, and 11% of those who bought or rented a home in the prior year say that online information had a major impact on their decision.
“The internet is a tactical tool for shoppers who use it in product research, and usually not a game-changer in people's purchasing decisions,” said Horrigan. “Its impacts show up in efficiencies in the search process. Even for a digital product such as music, people more often than not buy in stores, not online.”
Among online Americans who use the internet for product research, online resources make shopping more efficient by helping them explore options and compare features. And while sizable numbers say it helps them get better deals, few execute the purchase online.
For music buyers who used the internet to find out about music:
Nonetheless, just 22% of all music buyers say their most recent purchase was online (either a digital download or ordering a compact disc), while 74% said their most recent purchase was at a store. Among smaller set of music buyers using the internet to find out about music, one-third (33%) said their most recent purchase was online.
Among cell phone buyers who used the internet for product research:
Just 12% of all cell buyers say they bought their cell phone online; among the smaller set of music buyers using the internet to find out about music, 26% said they purchased it online.
Among those who bought or rented a home in the prior year:
“Shoppers cast their information nets widely when researching a product, so online information exists in a competitive product research environment,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director at the Pew Internet Project and author of the report. “This gives online vendors incentives to promote an environment of trust and reliability at their websites.”
Read the complete study The Internet and Consumer Choice on the Pew Internet & American Life Project Web site.
About the Pew Internet & American Life Project: The Pew Internet Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. Pew Internet explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project's Web site: http://www.pewinternet.org.