Economy Watch: Online Shopping Robust, Expanding on Various Platforms

Today nearly as many people have made purchases through social media platforms as those that had done any kind of only shopping at the beginning of the 21st century, a Pew Research Center survey found.

Pew Research Online ShoppingOnline shopping isn’t an up-and-coming trend anymore, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, it’s firmly established. But even so, many people still appreciate the benefits of brick-and-mortar stores. The survey found that a vast majority of Americans are now online shoppers: 79 percent have made an online purchase of some kind, while 51 percent have bought something using a cellphone and 15 percent have made purchases by following a link from social media sites.

When the Pew center first asked about online shopping in mid-2000, only 22 percent of Americans had made a purchase online. Now, more than a decade and a half later, nearly as many people have made purchases directly through social media platforms as those that had done any kind of online shopping at the beginning of the 21st century.

Overall, 64 percent of Americans said they’d prefer to buy from physical stores than online, all things being equal. The trouble for brick-and-mortar operations, however, is that all things are often not equal. Some 65 percent of respondents said they compare the in-store price to the online price, and choose the cheapest option. Some 21 percent said they would buy from stores without checking prices online, while 14 percent would buy online without checking prices at physical locations.

The survey also shows how people are turning to online reviews and ratings when making purchasing decisions. Some 82 percent said they consult online ratings and reviews when buying something for the first time. In fact, 40 percent of respondents (and about half of those under the age of 50) said that they nearly always turn to online reviews when buying something new.