Online Buying Behaviors are Intensifying, but Consumers Still Have their Doubts

By June 30, 2008

As the Internet's novelty fades and netizens in the U.S. grow more accustomed to shopping online, the type of items they buy become more diversified, though for many, concerns regarding their privacy remain, eMarketer reported Wednesday. Until 2007, USC Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Center showed, consumers were more likely to buy items like books or CDs than they were to order objects that could change from store to store, place to place. But as their faith in the general reliability of such purchases grew, eMarketer said, consumers began to vary their pool of procured items, expanding it from those books and CDs to clothes or travel arrangements. According to eMarketer's chart below, more than 40 percent of customers were buying "electronic goods or appliances" and "software/games" from web merchants by last year. Yet the popularity of turning to the web for items-whether for convenience purposes or due to the greater likelihood of finding rare pieces online than in stores-was, more often than not, dependent on age.

When more than 1600 people were asked to discuss their Internet using habits in a survey given by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in August-September of 2007, 82-84 percent of 18-49-year-olds said they thought the Internet was "the best place to buy items that are hard to find."
These percentages came in contrast to the 61-70 percent of 50-65+-year-olds who thought the same thing.
The number of people who found shopping online convenient was still more sharply divided by age lines: for example, where 83 percent of 19 18-29-year-olds surveyed agreed with that statement, only 54 percent of the 65+-year-olds asked did.

The concerns that have neither dwindled over time nor varied based on age, though, were the discomfort those asked had with punching in such personal information as address, birthday and credit card numbers as well as the their preference of for seeing (and perhaps holding) an item before buying it. From youngest to oldest, 71-82 percent (from younger-oldest) of all those asked responded that they were not keen on putting private facts online, and 82-85 percent polled wanted to get a glimpse of their purchases before committing to ownership.
Even if the Internet is dramatically changing the way folks meet, date or do business, people still seem to like their privacy and the assurance that what they are reading about, is what they are getting.

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