September 29, 2010

Online Product Research

58% of Americans have researched a product or service online

24% have posted comments or reviews online about the things they buy

WASHINGTON – The commercial use of the internet by American adults has grown since the mid-2000s, with 58% of Americans now reporting that they perform online research concerning the products and services that they are considering purchasing.  That is an increase from 49% who said they conducted product or service research online in 2004.

Morever, the number of those who do research about products on any given day has jumped from 15% of adults in September 2007 to 21% in September 2010.  From February 2004, the number of adults conducting research on any given day has more than doubled, up from 9%.

Additionally, 24% of American adults say they have posted comments or reviews online about the product or services they buy, indicating a willingness to share their opinions about products and the buying experience with others. “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’s Internet & American Life Project and author of a new report about online product research. “Even if they end up making their purchase in a store, they start their fact-finding and decision-making on the internet.”

These findings come from a survey conducted between August 9 and September 13, 2010. The survey was administered to a sample of 3,001 adults, age 18 and older, using a combination of landline and cellular telephones. The sample margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for the general population and plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for internet users (n=2,065).

These new statistics track with other Pew Internet Project data about increases in e-commerce. For instance, the percentage of Americans purchasing products online rose from 36% in May 2000 to 52% in the Project’s May 2010 survey. And the percentage making travel reservations or bought travel services such airline tickets, hotel rooms, or rental cars rose from 22% in May 2000 to 52% in the Project’s May 2010 survey.

Other notable findings from the most recent Project survey include:

  • There is no significant gender difference, with similar percentages of internet-using men (77%) and women (79%) conducting online product research.
  • Online African-Americans report doing product research at significantly lower rates (66%) than Whites (81%) or Hispanics (76%).
  • More of those in the higher income and education brackets do online product research than those in the lower brackets. Some 87% of online college graduates and 88% of those earning $75,000+ use the internet to do research on product or services.

Other Pew Internet findings that relate to e-commerce:

  • The percentage of those purchasing products online rose from 36% in May 2000 to 52% in the Project’s May 2010 survey.
  • The percentage making travel reservations or bought travel services such airline tickets, hotel rooms, or rental cars rose from 22% in May 2000 to 52% in the Project’s May 2010 survey.
  • Product and service information sharing coincides with increasing use of social networking sites. 46% of Americans reporting the use of internet sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, up from 5% in February 2005.

“E-commerce is now a 360-degree experience for shoppers,” noted Jansen. “It begins with research that in turn leads to purchases that then trigger commentary and reviews by shoppers. Every part of the online experience seems to have become second nature to internet veterans.”


About the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the internet and how their activities affect their lives.

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