Many consumers still unwilling to buy electronics online

The advent of online shopping changed the retail industry forever, but many consumers are still not willing to shop for consumer electronics online despite potential cost savings. New data from market research firm The NPD Group shows that while nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers use the Internet to research consumer electronics purchases, only about half go on to purchase electronics online. “It’s not surprising to see that so many consumers won’t buy TVs, smartphones, and other popular CE products online, despite using the Internet to perform basic product research,” said NPD analyst Stephen Baker in a statement. “Computers and other IT products have a much longer history online with a wider variety of outlets, including direct sales from manufacturers, for consumers to choose from.” The firm found that computers and computer software where the most popular online purchases for consumers, with 34% of NPD’s 1,326-person study saying they would make such purchases online. Televisions were the least likely online electronics purchases, with only 19% of respondents saying they would buy a TV online. The NPD Group’s full press release follows below.

The NPD Group: Consumers Still Reluctant to Purchase Traditional Consumer Electronics Online

According to NPD’s new “E-commerce and Consumer Electronics: Online Shopping & Purchasing” report, 63 percent of consumers consult the web first when researching electronics but only half of all consumers end up making the purchase online

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., September 15, 2011 — According to a new report from The NPD Group, a leading market research company, even as the incidence of Web-shopping increases, many U.S. consumers remain reluctant to purchase certain consumer electronics (CE) products online, even after using the Web to find out more about them. NPD’s “E-commerce and Consumer Electronics: Online Shopping & Purchasing” report reveals that televisions are the fourth most-likely item that consumers research online prior to purchasing (56 percent); however, it’s the least likely electronics product that consumers would actually purchase online (19 percent). Smartphones also showed a much higher level of research versus buying online: while 52 percent of consumers would seek out information about smartphones on the Web, just 23 percent could imagine themselves going online to purchase one. In contrast more people (66 percent) do both their research (66 percent) and expect to make an actual purchase (34 percent) online for PCs then for any other CE device.

“It’s not surprising to see that so many consumers won’t buy TVs, smartphones, and other popular CE products online, despite using the Internet to perform basic product research,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD. “Computers and other IT products have a much longer history online with a wider variety of outlets, including direct sales from manufacturers, for consumers to choose from.”

Top consumer electronics products consumers were “extremely” or “very likely” to purchase online, included the following:

  • Computer software | 34%
  • Computer | 34%
  • eReader | 32%
  • Digital Camera | 30%
  • Computer accessories/peripherals | 30%
  • Tablet computer | 29%
  • Printer | 24%
  • Smartphone/mobile phone | 23%
  • Camcorder | 21%
  • Blu-ray player | 21%
  • Home audio | 20%
  • Television | 19%

“Part of consumers’ unwillingness to purchase certain electronics online might be due to a lack of awareness, or as a result of the slow pace taken by many traditional CE companies establishing a direct-to-consumer buying presence on the Web, or it could be something inherent in the products themselves, such as price or complexity,” Baker said. “Whatever the cause, the result is a badly skewed online sales mix that relies heavily on a narrow range of products, and one that doesn’t adequately address some of the more exciting growth opportunities.”

According to Baker, “retailers continue to have an edge with consumers, when they can leverage their physical storefronts with a strong online presence.” In fact more than three quarters (76 percent) of all consumers say they have used a retailer’s website to research a potential purchase, compared to just 62 percent for manufacturer-direct shoppers and 65 percent for online-only shoppers. Reinforcing consumers comfort with a multi-channel approach to gathering information, NPD’s data shows that using retailers’ stores and websites are among the top five activities consumers do first, when they begin to consider purchasing consumer electronics.

Information in NPD’s “E-commerce and Consumer Electronics: Online Shopping & Purchasing” report is based on online surveys fielded in June 2011 to a representative sample of 1,326 panelists from NPD’s online panel. Results were balanced to represent the U.S. adult population.

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