Only 27% Of U.S. Consumers Buy Online Each Week

While the growth in online sales continues to blaze past conventional retailing, a new study from PwC lends a different perspective. For one thing, only 27% of U.S. consumers make online purchases in any given week. For another, only 1% are using their phones to buy stuff.

The report, “Total Retail: Retailers and the Age of Disruption,” finds that while 73% say they browse online, they still prefer making the actual transaction in a store, either to beat delivery fees (65%), have the item immediately (61%) or try it on (61%.)

Amazon, Walmart and Target are the three favorite retailers, and an impressive 49% say their first stop in starting a purchase decision is always a search engine; only 26% go first to a retailers’ site.

 “For the past several years, the story around retail stores was ‘showrooming,’ in which stores were places to display items for online purchase. However, this year’s survey results reveal that the online shop has also become a showroom where shoppers research and compare prices for later, in-store purchases,” says Steven Barr, the consulting company's retail and consumer practice leader. “As online shopping continues to grow at the expense of store visits, we expect the premium in the future may be on creating unique, brand-defining store and online experiences that keep consumers coming back.”

People’s perception of social media’s influence is less than might be expected, with only 4% of U.S. consumers ever making a purchase via social media, and just 36% saying that social media ever influenced an actual purchase.

While mobile technology is critical to the browsing and bargain-finding part of shopping, used by 45% of U.S. shoppers, mobile payments are far less in demand than many headlines suggest: Only 1% of consumers listed mobile payments as their preferred method. And security is a major obstacle, with 33% of those in the U.S. sample saying they don’t use smartphones or tablets for shopping because of security fears, and 77% who worry that credit card information can be hacked using a mobile phone.

The online survey, based on more than 19,000 online interviews with online shoppers on six continents, with 1,000 of them based in the U.S., found major swings in attitude by country. When asked,  whether “my mobile phone will be my main tool for purchasing,” 17% of all respondents strongly disagreed, and 9% strongly agreed. But in China and India, 24% strongly agreed, as did 19% in the Middle East. Yet in Denmark, 34% strongly disagreed, as did 32% of those in Belgium, and 27% in the U.K.

3 comments about "Only 27% Of U.S. Consumers Buy Online Each Week".
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  1. Robert Niess from MKT, February 9, 2015 at 1:33 p.m.

    Just because the amount of purchases that are made online or with other mobile devices is not high, does not mean that the amount of people that are look up items in not high. This gives advertisers a chance to draw consumers in with information about their product such as price and quality that they might not see with in a store. Online viewing allows consumers to view many different products at one time compare prices, and read reviews on products before going out to the store to purchases. I feel that the entire goal of advertisers should be to have the best online promotions so that consumers will want to do more research and be will to go the store to buy your product. This internet gives advertisers that chance to connect with consumers on a very personal basis, and what better way to get a consumers attention than to advertise to them while they are at home and feel no pressure to buy anything and have more time to research your product.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, February 9, 2015 at 5:36 p.m.

    People that look up items online are the equivalent of a window-shopper. Any retailer will tell you that until they walk in the door and purchase they mean virtually nothing.

  3. mike boland from BIA/Kelsey, February 10, 2015 at 12:32 p.m.

    None of this is surprising. Offline retail accounts for about 93% of U.S. retail spending. Ecommerce (which includes mcommerce) is only about 7%. Also, survey data are less reliable because it measures headcount of consumers that exhibit a particular behavior. Besides being based on recollection (and in some cases aspiration), survey data fail to account for dollar amounts spent per respondent. So a much more accurate picture can be seen from measuring actual sales data. That's where the above 7% figure comes from. Source is the U.S. Census Bureau:

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