June 23, 2010, 12:42 PM

15% of shoppers prefer the web channel

Books, toys/games and apparel are the most popular categories among U.S. web shoppers.

Lead Photo

41% of consumers use the web as their primary means of researching products they prefer to buy in stores.

15% of U.S. shoppers prefer to make retail purchases on the Internet and another 41% use the web as their primary means of finding and researching products they prefer to buy in stores, according to a new report from The Research Shop Inc., the market research arm of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a retail industry trade organization.

The report, “Phase 2, Shopping Habits Report: How the recession has impacted consumer shopping habits,” is based on surveys of 2,700 consumers in April, including 2,200 in the U.S. and 500 in Canada. Phase 1 of the same survey was conducted last October.

Phase 2 notes that 28% of consumers show an inclination to spend more this year on retail products and services across all retail channels, even though only 44% describe their personal financial situation as either good or excellent and only 38% expect their financial situation to improve this year, down from 42% in the Phase 1 survey.

Regarding the channel preference results, The Research Shop points out that the survey was conducted online, indicating that responses might weigh toward a larger-than-average preference for using the Internet to shop.

The study also notes that 24% of U.S. consumers rarely, if ever, use the Internet for retail purchases, and that 20% shop in a store first and buy online only if they can’t find what they want in a store.

Among U.S. consumers who prefer to shop online, there were several reasons of roughly equal importance: convenience, saving time, easier to find a particular item, lower prices and wider selection. In addition, half of U.S. consumers said not being charged sales tax by many online retailers also was an important reason for shopping online.

In other findings, the study notes for both U.S. and Canadian consumers:

● 39% prefer e-mail or other forms of online communications to receive information from retailers, while 38% prefer printed newspaper or direct-mail communications.

● 46% regularly use newspaper coupons, and 32% regularly use online coupons that they can print out and bring to a store.

● The optimal frequency of e-mail communications is once per week to consumers who have opted in to receive them.

● More than half use a social media site, primarily Facebook, and the percentage of users is highest among consumers 18-44 (75%). For consumers 45-64, it’s 50%, for consumers 65 or older, 30%.

● 25% of adult consumers follow or are a fan of at least one retailer.

● 72% pass social media content from retailers onto their friends, while 54% keep it for themselves.

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