August 26, 2014, 12:27 PM

Shoppers all over the world are buying more online

Shoppers in Latin American browse more but buy less; shoppers in Asia-Pacific browse less but buy more, says a new report from Nielsen.

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Nearly half of global internet users plan to make an online purchase in the next six months in popular categories, including clothing (46%), airline tickets (48%) and hotel (44%) reservations, according to a study from market research firm The Nielsen Co.

Nielsen surveyed more than 30,000 consumers with online access in 60 countries on their online buying and browsing habits across 22 consumer product categories.

“The lightning-fast pace of change in the digital landscape has ushered in a consumer mindset that is both adventurous and exploratory when it comes to online shopping,” says John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives. “Consumers everywhere want a good product at a good price, and the seemingly limitless options available in a virtual environment provide new opportunities for both merchants and consumers.”

Even in the fast-moving consumer product goods categories—cosmetics, groceries, baby products, pet products—that are mostly purchased offline consumers are more often turning to the web. 31% of global respondents say they buy cosmetics online, compared to 25% in 2011. Consumers intending to buy groceries online rose 5 percentage points to 27% and baby supplies jumped 12 percentage points to 20%. Consumers saying they purchase pet products online doubled in two years from 9% in 2012 to 21% in 2014.

The correlation between browsing and buying was high for those categories, too. About one-third of global respondents say they browse and buy personal care products (31%, 29%), which is close to a one-to-one ratio of consumers looking for and buying online in that category. The correlation is similar for groceries (30%, 27%), pet products (24%, 21%), baby supplies (23%, 20%), flowers (20%, 18%) and alcoholic drinks (20%, 17%).

“Strong online browse-to-buy correlation rates for fast-moving consumer goods translates to loyal repeat customers for these categories,” says Burbank. “While these categories are still in the early stages of online adoption, these correlations signal great news for retailers. Now is the time to create omnichannel experiences for consumers who are actively using both digital and physical platforms to research and purchase, as increasingly, they don’t make a distinction between the two.”

There are still product categories where consumers browse online more than they buy online: electronic equipment, mobile phones, computer hardware and software, sporting goods and cars and motorcycles. Nielsen attributes that to higher prices of those items and the need to try on or test drive products.

Breaking down habits by region, consumers in Latin America have the highest browsing rates, but the lowest buying rates for just about every category analyzed. For example, 54% of consumers browse online for clothes, but only 28% buy online. “Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities,” says Burbank. In Asia-Pacific, consumers have a higher rate of buying online than browsing online. For example, 49% of consumers say they will browse clothes online but 57% say they will buy in the next six months.

The study also broke down shopping habits by generation. The generation most likely to browse and buy online was Millennials (age 21-34) with 49-59% planning to browse and 52-63% planning to buy in the next six months. Consumers falling in the Generation X range (age 35-49), are the next biggest online shoppers, with 25-28% planning to browse and 25-30% planning to buy. Baby Boomers (50-64) are less likely to browse and shop online, with just 7-13% saying they plan to browse and 6-13% saying they plan to buy. Generation Z (under 20) and the Silent Generation (65+) had rates of less than 10% for plans to browse and buy online.

The desktop computer is still overwhelmingly the device of choice when it comes to online purchases, with 80% of consumers planning to make a purchase citing the device as their top choice. But in developing regions, smartphones are more often the device consumers use. In the Middle East and Africa, 55% of consumers planning to make a purchase plan on doing so on a smartphone. In Asia-Pacific that percentage is 52%, and in Latin America 48%.

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