The USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future examined online shopping and consumer behavior in its 2014 Digital Future Report. You’d think that by now everyone is shopping online, but the report offers surprises amongst the obvious. Younger shoppers are impatient. Prices still matter. People don’t like sales tax. But showrooming helps retailers as much as it hurts.
The report offers data from 2000 to 2013, and divides its respondents into three main categories, and sorts their responses accordingly: those who don’t use the Internet, Internet users who shop online, and Internet users who don’t shop online.
That’s Still Just a C+
In 2013, 79 percent of Internet users said that they made online purchases. That’s the highest number in the study’s history, rising from a low of 40 percent in 2002. That group of online shoppers reported spending an average of $101 per month online, another high for the study and a noteworthy increase from $88 in 2012. Clothes were the online purchase reported most frequently, at 68 percent; more than 50 percent of online shoppers also bought gifts, books, travel and electronics/appliances.
Asked what could make them spend more, 64 percent of online shoppers said lower prices. That was the most popular response, though most would surely say the same about brick and mortar shopping, too. More than 60 percent also cited faster delivery, cheaper shipping, and no sales tax. Age was a significant factor in answering that question: 100 percent of those under 18 wanted faster shipping, compared to only 44 percent of shoppers 55 and older. These younger buyers were also significantly more interested in having more choices, more user reviews, and avoiding sales tax than were those over 18.
People Still Worry About Security and Privacy
In all, non-users are more concerned about the security of their online shopping data than Internet users, and users who don’t shop online are more concerned about it than those who do.
Only 7 percent of those surveyed had no fears at all for their safety of their personal data while shopping online, while 42 percent had some concern, and 52 percent were very/extremely concerned. Internet non-users were much more likely to be very or extremely concerned about the safety of buying online: 43 percent of non-users said they were very concerned, compared to only 22 percent of users.
In 2001, the number of people who said they’d be somewhat concerned about credit card security while shopping online has grown from 23 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2013. In a way, though, that’s good news: as it grows, the number of people very/extremely concerned falls. For 2013, that number is down to 47 percent, from 71 percent in 2001. It was slightly lower in 2012, though—the increase perhaps a temporary response to high-profile data breaches like those at Target and Home Depot.
E-Tail vs. Retail
Nine percent of online shoppers report a large reduction in brick-and mortar shopping; another 51 percent admit to some level of reduction. But 39 percent of online shoppers say that they’re still spending as much in stores as they ever did.
One practice unpopular with retailers is showrooming, browsing products in a store only to inform a subsequent online purchase. Over two-thirds of 2013 Internet shoppers, 67 percent, admitted sometimes doing so, while 10 percent said they do it regularly. Of these two groups, 18 percent admitted to purchasing the item online even before leaving the store. And of that group, only 24 percent bought from the retail store’s online site, while 76 percent purchased from another online vendor.
In a bit of good news for retailers, though, reverse showrooming is a real phenomenon, too. The same 67 percent of online shoppers said they sometimes research items online before buying in a store, while 16 percent report doing so often.
What the Survey Missed
Online vendors spend a lot of money on improving their site loading times, because the longer you have to wait, the less likely you are to make it all the way to checkout. One slow-loading site is just an annoyance, but when they’re all slow, it’s a problem. If you’ve been frustrated with your online shopping experience, maybe you’re the one who needs to make the upgrade. Shop for a faster plan and all your shopping will get faster.
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