79 percent of Americans now shop online, but its cost more than convenience that sways them

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Eight in 10Americans are now shopping online, according to a new study from Pew Research out this morning. Thats 79 percent of U.S. consumers who shop on the web or their phones, up from just 22 percent back in 2000. Over half (51 percent) have also bought something from their mobile phone, the study found, and 15 percent purchased after clicking through on a link shared on social media.

While the studys main focus is to detail how many shop online, where, how often, and using which platforms, whats more interesting is how it teases out the answers as to why.

Surprisingly, its not necessarilythe convenience of being able to click a few buttons to have products shipped to your door that consumers said wasmost appealing: its cost, and the ability to research those costs and other matters, more efficiently across the web ahead of their purchase.


This is an interesting takeaway on consumer behavior at a time when so many startupbusinesses are trying to solve the pain points that come with having to actually go out and shop. Companies are rolling out services ranging from same-day delivery to subscription boxes of everyday items, like tampons or toothbrushes or those that saveyou the hassle of having to visit the grocery store.

In fact, this has been one of the criticisms of Silicon Valleys approach to the new online economy.

As General Catalyst investment associate Katherine Boyle recently noted in aTechCrunch column: In Silicon Valley, people strive to conserve time. In the rest of America, people conserve money.

This is true, according to Pews findings.65 percent of online shoppersin Pews study said that, all things being equal, theyd prefer to shop in a physical store.

Of course, thatdesireis something theyre expressing more in abstract, Pew notes. And the percentage of those who say they would rathershop local brick-and-mortar stores greatly decreases depending on how frequently they go online to make purchases.

For example, 62 percent of those who buy online on a weekly basis said they would rather go online that shop a physical store. But 82 percent of those who dont even make an online purchase even once amonth said they would prefer to shop in physical stores.


But whenit comes down to where peopleend up choosing toshop, its often a matter of price.

65 percent of online shoppers said if they needed to make a purchase, theyd compare real-world prices with those online and then buy where they could get the best deal. Only 21 percent said theyd buy without checking online prices for comparisons sake, and only 14 percent said theyd buy online without checking retail prices.

Also interesting is how consumers responded to questions about the factors they take into consideration when theyre shopping for something theyve never bought before. Compared with numerous other factors, the convenience of being able to make a purchase without going to the store is at the bottom of the list of what people considered important.

Only 42 percent said this was either somewhat or extremely important, for example. Meanwhile, things they considered more important includedcomparing prices (86% said somewhat or extremely important), asking questions (84%), buying from sellerstheyre familiar with (84%), looking at the product in person (78%), and getting advice from people they know (77%), reading online reviews (74%).


Online reviews have become very important to Americans purchasing decisions, Pew also found. 82 percent say they consult online ratings when buying for the first time, and nearly half (46%) said that reviews can help them feel more confident about their purchases.

However,shoppers have begun tolose faith in the trustworthiness of online reviews. 48 percent say its often hard to tell if these reviews are truthful and unbiased. This problem, in large part, has likely been exacerbated by the situation of paid reviews. For example, Amazon recently cracked down on incentivized reviews (those where the reviewer received a free product or discount), in an effort to make its reviews more authentic.

The larger report also delves into topics like showrooming (checking online prices while shopping a physical store something 45% have done); social medias role in purchases; and payments.

On that last front, it seems that the use of cash on the decline. 24 percent say they dont make any purchases with cash during a typical week. Another 24 percent say they use cash for nearly all purchases. And the other half says its a mix.


While the report didnt dig into newer payment technologies deeply, it did note that12 percent of Americans have paid for purchases by swiping or scanning their cellphones at the register. And in perhaps another example of technology not connecting with the average user, 39 percent said theyve now heard of bitcoin, but only 1 percent haveactually used it.

The full report is available on Pews website.

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