Consumers use the Internet to research purchases as inexpensive as recorded music and as expensive as real estate but prefer to make their purchases in-person at a retail establishment, according to the latest Pew Internet & American Life research on the topic of consumer purchasing habits and the Web.
The study entitled “The Internet and Consumer Choice,” which was released last week, found that U.S. adults use the Web to research products and to discover new products, but that the Internet provided only one input in their purchasing decision.
Pew surveyed consumers about how they discovered products in three categories: music, mobile phones, and real estate. Of respondents who bought music in the prior year, 83% were first exposed to the music they purchased through another medium (radio, TV or a movie). Nearly two-thirds were following the suggestions of friends or family. But more than half said they used the Web to learn more about the music, by going to Web sites operated by the artist or streaming song samples.
Surprisingly, only 7 percent of those surveyed said the information they found online had a “major impact” on their decision. Yet 42 percent said that the Internet helped them save money on their music purchases.
“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 John B. Horrigan, associate director at Pew, in a statement. “Its impacts show up in efficiencies in the search process. Even for a digital product such as music, people more often than not by in stores, not online.”
The findings for the other two purchaser groups – for mobile phones and real estate – were similar to those of music, even though the products are very different. In each case, online information supplemented offline information, but it did not replace it.
This underscores the need to promote your products and provide information in multiple channels. Even if your product is not being purchased via eCommerce, you can be certain that consumers are trying to supplement their knowledge of it online. And if you’re not there, those consumers might very well switch to another brand.