Young Internet Users Prefer E-Browsing to E-Commerce

The Internet has proven to be a valuable channel for shopping among young people all over the world, according to a study by Ipsos-Reid, but when it comes to buying, the young people in America lead the way.

The study, “The Face of the Web: Youth,” is based on surveys with 10,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 24 in 16 countries. It found that 54 percent of online young people around the world report using the Internet to gather information about products and services, but only 27 percent are currently buying.

The young online buyers are led by those in the United States, where 43 percent of young Internet users buy online and Sweden (41 percent). Young Germans (33 percent), Canadians (25 percent) and Britons (22 percent) have also ventured into the online purchasing waters. Young Americans, while they are no longer the majority of the world’s online youth population, account for roughly 60 percent of the world’s online youth shoppers.

The most enthusiastic online browsers are in Brazil (84 percent), the Netherlands (64 percent), Sweden (64 percent), the United States (60 percent), Germany (59 percent) and Canada (57 percent).

“Window and comparison shopping is commonplace in the well-developed Internet youth markets in North America and Europe,” said Gus Schattenberg, vice president of global research at Ipsos-Reid. “The next step is actually making an online purchase.”

Despite an intense involvement in other realms of the Internet, the Ipsos-Reid study found Asian youth have not made the move to e-commerce.

Not surprisingly, the most popular items that young Internet users buy online are music (19 percent); clothing (16 percent); and books (14 percent), but the survey discovered a wide range of products are purchased online by youths, from travel to toys to flowers. There are clear trends visible along age and gender lines. Video game purchases are generally made by male teens. Females of all ages are more likely to purchase books. Females are also roughly three times more likely to buy clothing online than young men. Sporting goods and computer-related purchases are popular among males.

Forty-three percent of the youth surveyed reported using their own payment cards to buy online. Another 28 percent used the card of someone else, usually a parent. Electronic cash has been used by only 1 percent of those surveyed, but 23 percent report using cash on delivery, checks, money orders, bank drafts, or transfers.

As for the future, only one in six youth regard purchasing anything online this year as very likely. One in four say it is somewhat likely.

“Young shoppers are still likely to find more immediate gratification at a brick-and-mortar retailer than waiting days or weeks for delivery of an order placed online,” Schattenberg said. “It would appear that young consumers like the idea of window shopping online, but prefer the social experience of ‘actual’ shopping, and enjoy handling the merchandise they buy. There are also significant hurdles to be overcome in some markets. Not every kid has easy access to credit, which clearly has facilitated the development of e-commerce.”

A survey by the College Stores Research and Educational Foundation, which examined the online shopping behavior of college students, found that 14 percent more students said they shop online than did two years ago.

The “StudentWatch” report found that students select one online store over another based on low prices, best selection and personal knowledge of the brand sold. Fast delivery times and previous experience with the online store ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Students in the survey report spending two more days online each month than they did last year. Sixty-two percent said they used online services everyday.

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