Shop Before You Buy Shoppers Do Homework on the Web

The role that online information plays in the purchasing decisions of Internet shoppers was highlighted recently in research done by NetSmart Research.

The company found that 62 percent of those surveyed said that information they found online directly influenced their retail purchases. Half of those surveyed turned to the Net for information first when they planned a major purchase or investment. Just under half (49 percent) go online without a brand in mind. For the breakdown of the survey respondents who did online research and then purchased, see the table.

It seems high-ticket shoppers go to the Web to be convinced. In the survey, 93 percent said they go to the Web looking for specific information to help them decide which brand to buy, while 64 percent said they made a high-ticket retail purchase based on online information. The Web-driven retail purchases of those surveyed range cars to appliances.

When visiting high-ticket sites, content is what draws the customers, the survey found. Almost all of those surveyed (92 percent) go to be informed. Only 19 percent go looking to be entertained. Interaction, the ability to contact the company and get answers to questions was essential, the survey found.

Most (83 percent) of the potential customers in the survey leave Web sites because of frustration with navigation. Seventy-three percent say they will leave a site if it takes more than two or three clicks to get to the information they want.

Of those surveyed that made an online purchase in the past year, 81 percent paid with a credit card, including 88 percent of those with three or more years of Web-using experience. The average shopper bought 9 products and spent $475. Online shopping is coming at the expense of other mediums, 19 percent of the shoppers surveyed are doing less retail shopping, 20 percent less catalog shopping. Consistent with most other research of this kind, users shop online to save time (88 percent, in this case) and because they have 24-hour access (90 percent).

The survey was based on interviews with 1,000 Americans over age 21 that access the Internet from home at least one hour a week.

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