July 27, 2010, 3:58 PM

Most tech shoppers start their shopping online, study finds

Two-thirds of consumer electronics and computer shoppers start their research on the web.

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Two-thirds of consumer electronic s and computer shoppers start their research on the web, but purchases are split evenly between online and stores, a new study finds. See this chart in the Consumer section of IR's Trends & Data page.

The research, consisting of an online focus group and a poll this spring of nearly 1,200 consumer electronics and computer shoppers, also finds laptops, notebook computers and televisions are the top products researched or purchased online. Web monitoring firm comScore conducted the poll, which was sponsored by search marketing firms Searchandise Commerce and iProspect

52% of the polled consumers conducted online research or bought  laptops or notebook computers online, while 42% did so for televisions. Audio speakers, at 11%, and home theatre systems, at 12%, made up the bottom of the list.

The research also found that at least half the time consumers primarily shop online to replace old or broken products.

Additionally, 42% of consumer electronics shoppers start their shopping with a brand in mind, while 53% of computer shoppers do so, the study finds. Both groups of shoppers on average consult 4.1 information resources during their online and offline comparison shopping and research process, which, for the more than half of those who recently made a computer or consumer electronics purchase, lasts from one to four weeks. Nearly 85% who ended up buying products purchased those items within seven weeks of starting research.

When it comes to how shoppers start their shopping process, two-thirds begin their shopping process online. 19% begin at a retail web site, 18% at a search engine, 13% at a manufacturer web site. 10% start at a physical store, followed by online consumer reports, auction or classified web sites, comparison shopping sites, social networking sites, blogs, magazines and newspapers.

Retail sites and search engines consistently rank as the first or second stop in the shopping process, the study says, with the purchase location split fairly evenly between online and offline for both computer and consumer electronics shoppers, comScore says.

Despite the shopping process often starting online, shoppers still want to see, touch and interact with products in a physical store prior to purchase, according to the findings. Consumers use the online channel because it is easy to compare goods (61%), find information (47%) and is convenient (51%). However consumers say they like that physical stores let them see and touch a product. 

For those shoppers that bought offline, better pricing, free shipping and promotions and discounts would encourage them to make more online purchases, the study finds.

The study also asked respondents a series of questions about their impressions of various retail sites. Consumers felt most strongly about three things: They don’t want to see pop-up ads and do want to see clear pricing and product information and have access to product comparison tools. The study also tracked how shoppers investigate and use site search results. 94% of shoppers click between one and 10 products delivered in site search. From there, consumers look for price, key product features and preferred brands as key differentiators.

Products appearing in the top section of site search results, or within the first 10 to 15 results presented, carry additional weight for shoppers, the study says. Those products were identified by shoppers as best meeting their needs, being of highest quality, and being most relevant to their searches.

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