Pew: Not an Inappropriate Name
To which any rational person should respond, "What a load of crap." Having been associated with thousands of surveys and studies in my career, I can assure you that the vast majority of them are self-promotional and in no way accurately reflect the vox populi. When no less than the august Wall Street Journal makes deconstructing polls and surveys a full-time beat, you know that the cistern is getting pretty full.
While I have no particular axe to grind with the fine folks at The Pew Research Center, only a cretin would say that the Web is "not a game-changer" for purchases from the top of that way over-mentioned funnel, right down to the bottom.
Nearly everyone I know buys nearly everything they don't buy at a grocery store or drugstore based on information gleaned from the Web--and yes, much of that information comes from advertising. I confess that print and TV ads also catch my attention for potential purchases, but I go straight to the Web for more information. I just bought a hybrid (nothing to do with global warming or good citizenship and everything to do with the crappy gas mileage of my other SUVs) and you can be certain that I spent hours online going over every possible alternative from every major carmaker--and each moment in the process was an opportunity, through smart content or cool advertising, to sway my preference.
I pick movies to see based in large measure on Internet-delivered reviews. I pay attention to Amazon recommendations or "People who bought this also bought that..." since I buy about 40 books a year from them. I have not set foot in a shopping mall from Thanksgiving to Christmas in more than seven years. I am wide open to Internet-delivered ideas and alternatives (even if I sometimes end up on the phone threatening to expose the retailer's inefficient returns process online). I find snail mail catalogues annoying because I can't search them with a keyword and go right to the page I need. Not to mention having to take the time to look at each and every bra or nightie photo.
I click on search ads since I figure if the retailer paid top dollar to feature a product I'm in the market for, he probably has it in stock and I might as well start there to begin comparing options. I use loads of comparison-shopping sites just to price-check and research shipping costs and return policies. Often in the process, I pick up a little something I hadn't thought to--or intended to--buy that day.
My point is that the Web is an enormous factor in almost everything I buy, from vacations to cars and right down to running shoes and pencils. And it seems to be so for everyone else I know. Except, of course, for the folks that Pew dredged up.