September 29, 2010, 1:24 PM

Shoppers rely on the web for product research

58% of U.S. adults research products online before making a purchase.

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58% of U.S. adults go online to research products and services they are considering purchasing, an increase from 49% who did so in 2004, a new report finds.

Further, 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, according to the report released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

“Many Americans begin their purchasing experience by doing online research to compare prices, quality and the reviews of other shoppers,” says Jim Jansen, senior fellow at the project and author of the report. “Even if they end up making their purchase in a store, they start their fact-finding and decision making on the Internet.”

Additionally, 24% of U.S. adults say they have posted comments or reviews online about the products or services they buy, indicating that many consumers are willing to share their opinions about products and their buying experiences, the report says.

These new statistics track with other Pew Internet Project data that show more consumers are buying online. For instance, the percentage of Americans purchasing products online rose from 36% in 2000 to 52% in 2010. And the percentage making travel reservations or purchasing travel services such as airline tickets, hotel rooms or rental cars rose from 22% in 2000 to 52% in 2010.

Other findings from the new report on online product research include:

  • There is no significant gender difference in online product research: 77% of men versus 79% of women.
  • Blacks 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 or more use the Internet to research products or services.

“E-commerce is now a 360-degree experience for shoppers,” Jansen says. “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.”

The report is based on a survey of 3,001 adults age 18 and older conducted between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13.

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