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Study: Web Used for Window-Shopping, Not Buying

Although the day after Thanksgiving is touted as the busiest shopping day of the year, e-tailers may find Friday's experiences -- and the holiday season as a whole -- anticlimactic.

Many consumers may use the World Wide Web to window-shop, conduct research and make comparisons, but its their local brick-and-mortar merchants who they buy from, according to an industry survey.

The shopping preferences survey of 1,085 consumers who use the Internet was conducted October 19-23, 2000, by CARAVAN, Opinion Research Corporation International, on behalf of SuperPages.com by Verizon.

According to the study:

  • 21 percent of respondents characterize their shopping behavior as researching online and buying locally.
  • 5 percent chose researching and buying products online as the best description of their shopping behavior.
  • 65 percent are sticking with the old-fashioned method as their primary form of shopping - researching and buying at a local retailer.
  • 56 percent use the Web to compare prices.
  • 46 percent go online to compare models or brands.
  • 46 percent use the Internet to obtain gift ideas.
  • 44 percent are surfing to find a particular gift.

"The Internet has become an essential tool in the shopping process, even if the consumer is making the final purchase offline," said Patrick Marshall, group vice president - marketing, Verizon Information Services. "Online window-shopping can help holiday shoppers efficiently decide what to buy for people on their gift list and find the best place to buy it."

The survey also revealed several differences in the shopping styles of men and women:

  • Men are 60 percent more likely than women to window-shop online.
  • Women are 25 percent more likely to research and buy at a local retailer.
  • Men are 13 percent more likely to use the Internet to compare prices.
  • Men are 19 percent more likely to compare different models or brands of products using the Internet.
  • Women are 13 percent more likely to use the Internet to find a particular gift.

The date compile from the study illustrates that a Web site is for more than e-commerce, Marshall noted. "Obtaining information about local merchants via the Internet is clearly something consumers want," he said. "Although it is difficult to measure the sales that result from Internet research, there is clearly a need for this marketing tool, especially for small or local businesses."

However, he pointed out, Internet users are well served by online directories and services, particularly during the gift-giving season. "As more shoppers flock to the Internet during the holiday, tools such as ConsumerGuide and SuperPages.com can help them to quickly find the perfect gift -- whether it is on the Web or close to their homes.

"According to the survey, 71 percent of respondents go directly to a known site, such as Gap.com, 47 percent visit unbiased sites, such as ConsumerGuide.com, and 35 percent go to online directories."