Net Prices No Lure for Most E-Shoppers

A report released Wednesday by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that 58.4 percent of online purchasers believe that online prices are as high as those offline. That percentage jumps to 75.4 percent among online users who do not shop on the Web.

“The UCLA Internet Report: Surveying the Digital Future,” a product of four years of planning and nine months of field work, also found that 58.3 percent of users who do not make online buys say there is no difference between offline and online prices.

Demographics and E-Shopping

Although 51.7 percent of all Internet users surveyed had made at least one online purchase, there was a noticeable discrepancy between the numbers of men (57.1 percent) and women (45.1 percent) who had made purchases in cyberspace.

The survey also found that, for the most part, users with more education are more likely to shop online. While 21.5 percent of users who have not completed high school shop online, 62.8 percent of college graduates have made an online purchase. However, only 58 percent of advanced degree holders have spent money over the Internet.

Another factor that influences online shopping behavior is income. The survey found that 34.4 percent of Internet users making less than $15,000 (US$) per year are willing to shop online. That percentage jumped to 63.5 percent for Internet users in the $50,000 to $100,000 income bracket and topped out at 72.9 percent for users making more than $150,000.

Experienced Internet users are also more likely to make online purchases. Nearly 71 percent of respondents who have been online for two to four years said they have made an online purchase, compared to 26.4 percent of people who have been online for less than one year.

The average amount spent by online shoppers is $113 per month, according to the survey.

Benefits and Barriers

The number one reason given by respondents for shopping online is convenience. Other benefits include time savings, the ability to shop around the clock, availability of information, and the ability to compare prices.

The survey found that while there are many benefits of online shopping, many consumers still have issues that keep them from spending money online — topped by concern over the privacy of personal data.

Other concerns include shipping charges, return policies, and the prospect of buying items sight unseen.

Notably, some respondents find the lack of salespeople to be a benefit of online shopping, and others cite the lack of face-to-face contact as a problem.

Logging On and Off

The survey found that nearly 67 percent of all Americans have ventured online. However, the study also discovered that over 10 percent of Internet users are digital dropouts, meaning that at one time they logged on at least once a month, but no longer do so.

“Our findings refute many preconceived notions that persist about how the Internet affects our lives,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy and founder of the World Internet Project. “Yet deeply rooted problems still exist that have long-range implications for this powerful technology.”

According to the survey, the 10 most popular online activities are: surfing, accessing e-mail, researching hobbies, reading news and entertainment information, shopping, finding travel information, instant messaging, finding medical information and playing games.

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