July 26, 2001, 12:00 AM

Consumers underestimate online shopping, technology buys, says Forrester

While most consumers don’t follow through on intentions to buy high-tech devices, their predictions of online spending in other categories is remarkably accurate, new research finds.


Just how reliable are consumer’s own predictions for their online shopping behavior? It depends on what they’re asked to predict, according to a new report from Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research Inc. Reviewing data on online shopping behavior from more than 14,000 shoppers over the past three years, Forrester found that a sizable chunk of shoppers who said they did not expect to shop online later did so, but that they tended not to make all the technology purchases they said they would. In other categories, however, consumers have become quite accurate at predicting future online purchases.

Forrester found that a full one-third of those surveyed who said in 1999 they did not anticipate going online had in fact wired up for Internet access in 2000. And of those who said they did expect to go online, 83% actually followed through.

Forrester found that consumers were far less accurate at predicting technology purchases. Of those who said in 1998 that they’d buy a computer in the coming year, only 21% did so. Forrester found the same general patterns in consumers’ adoption of other technologies such as PDAs and cell phones. When it comes to computer and related technology purchases, “If consumers say they really want it, only a fourth will actually go get it,” says Forrester analyst James McQuivey. For a few more established technologies such as fax machines, that number climbed to about 50%, he adds.

While consumers have underestimated the extent to which they would shop on the web and overestimated technology purchases, their predictions for online spending in other product categories proved accurate. For example, the follow-through rate on purchase intention was 89% on books, 87% on software and 78% for music. “Now, online shopping is such a mainstream part of our economy that consumers can reliably estimate their future purchases,” McQuivey says.


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