Pew: Majority Of Americans Researching Products Online


Using the Internet to research product purchases has become a common practice for many people, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. The nonprofit organization found that 58% of Americans perform online research of products and services they are considering buying, up from 49% in 2004.

Furthermore, the number of people who research purchases on any given day has spiked from 15% of adults in September 2007 to 21% three years later. The study also found that more people are also doing more than just gathering information about products online -- they are increasingly providing it as well.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of the 3,001 adults surveyed between August 9 and Sept. 13 said they had posted comments or reviews about items or services they bought. "Many Americans begin their purchasing experience by doing online research to compare prices, quality, and the reviews of other shoppers," said Jim Jansen, senior fellow at the Pew Research Center.

Among Internet users, 78% said that they at least occasionally research products and 32% have posted comments about products online.

Not surprisingly, the willingness to share information and opinions on products coincides with the rise of social networking. Nearly half (46%) of Americans use social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, up from just 5% in February 2005.

The new data on product research is consistent with other Pew findings on e-commerce trends. For example, the portion of Americans who buy products online rose from 36% in May 2000 to 52% in May 2010. Likewise, the percentage making travel reservations or buying travel services like airline tickets, hotel rooms, or rental cars has risen from 22% to 52% in the last decade.

Among other key findings in the latest survey, there was no significant gender difference in people conducting product research online, with 77% of men and 79% of women doing so. But a lower proportion of African-Americans (66%) turned to the Web for product information than whites (81%) or Hispanics (76%).

People at higher income and educational levels were also more likely to do research online, with 87% of college graduates and 88% of those earning $75,000 or more turning to the Internet for help on potential purchases.


3 comments about "Pew: Majority Of Americans Researching Products Online".
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  1. Lisa Kaneff, September 30, 2010 at 9:54 a.m.

    I think new features such as ShopLocal's "Gift Me This" is capitalizing on the social shopping phenomenon - giving and receiving advice on purchases through social networks. You can now find something you want in a circular and post it straight to your Facebook news feed w/ comments that get threaded within the circular. People trust their networks and this research is further proof. Thanks!

  2. Gregory Yankelovich from Amplified Analytics Inc, September 30, 2010 at 6:17 p.m.

    1. Customer reviews are amazing source of a very rich content, but is very underutilized for a number of reasons. Consumers often complain about inadequacy of 5 stars (Leikert scale) in terms of usefulness in making purchasing decision and many manufacturers find it too expensive to convert raw text data into actionable knowledge. The biggest winners are online retailers who see their visit to conversion rates increase substantially when a sufficient number of customer reviews is available on the product page.

    Our software mines opinions expressed in customer reviews to measure a difference between their expectations and their experience to produce specific, consistent and unbiased metrics that allow to compare products based on attributes that are important to the most important market segment - people who buy your product or product of your direct competitor.

  3. Matt Moog, October 1, 2010 at 4:02 p.m.

    Nearly every category of purchase (travel, auto, home products, technology products, local business services) have been significantly impacted by the availability of user reviews. I would argue however there is much room for improvement. When we set out to build four years ago we thought that it be even more valuable if a person researching a purchase could not only read reviews but ask people who wrote those reviews very specific questions about their experience and learn more about reviews in the process. Since then we have had 500,000 people contribute reviews and actively interact with the 40 million in market buyers who have read those reviews. And yet, there is still work to be done to make reviews more helpful in the decision making process.

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