May 9, 2008, 12:00 AM

Shoppers go online to research home goods, but less than a third buy there

81% of online consumers say they use the web to read up on major household purchases, but just 31% of those consumers say they will buy such items online, according to a recent poll by PriceGrabber.com

Many online consumers use the Internet to read up on major household purchases, but less than a third of those shoppers will buy the products online, according to a new study by comparison shopping mall PriceGrabber.com. However, the survey, a follow-up to a similar 2006 PriceGrabber poll, indicates that consumers are becoming more comfortable shopping for appliances and furniture on the web.

81% of respondents to the March 2008 poll of 1,945 online consumers say they surf the web for information before purchasing furniture and appliances, and 53% say the Internet is their top source for researching such purchases. However, just 31% who research online say they buy big-ticket household items on the web.

For those that do shop online for such items, price is a key driver. 43% cite more competitive prices as the main reason they buy on the web, compared to 34% in 2006; 20% say free shipping and delivery, up from 18% in the earlier poll; and 14% cite a larger product selection compared to 13% before. Convenience also is a motivator. 12% say the ability to shop at home is the top reason they shop online for furniture and appliances, up from 6% in 2006.

Fewer online consumers feel the need to see household products in person before buying than did in the 2006 survey. 54% of respondents in this year’s poll list the inability to view, touch and feel the products as a top factor keeping them from checking out online, down from 70% in the 2006 study. But the cost of home delivery is a bigger barrier to online shopping this year. 25% in this year’s poll say home delivery fees keep them from making online appliance and furniture purchases, compared to 4% two years ago.

Other online shopping concerns listed include unease with customer service and a general fear of making large purchases via the Internet. But, it seems such fears can be quelled with incentives. 72% of those polled in the most recent study say free home delivery would increase their chances of making a major home purchase via the web and 28% say they could be enticed by free installation.

39% say they expect to buy more home and personal products online in the next year, up from 23% in the 2006 survey.

More than 26 million unique visitors visit PriceGrabber.com each month to view products supplied by more than 12,500 retailers.

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