Retailer Websites are leading Source of Purchase Information.

Internet users in the US are buying an ever-increasing array of products online on a regular basis, and they’re also turning to the internet to research many of their offline purchases—even everyday ones. Research suggests that even with a wealth of online channels at their disposal, retailer websites are the leading research source for purchase decisions across nearly all product categories.

Compete found that retail websites were more commonly used for product research than search engines, online ads, online reviews, retail emails and a wide variety of other information sources before consumers made online purchases of grocery, health and beauty, and pet supply products. The same was true for books, movies, music and video, home improvement products, consumer electronics, and shoes. Only apparel research was more likely to start from another source, retail emails, while household essentials were just as likely to be researched on search engines as on retail sites.

It makes sense that a large amount of research prior to an online purchase would occur on retailer websites, since online shoppers almost inevitably will spend some time at a retailer website while buying online. But, in most cases, use of information on retail sites dwarfed that from anywhere else. Groceries, for example, were nearly three times as likely to be researched on a retailer site than anywhere else, with search engines coming in a distant second.

Nearly half of online buyers surveyed by Compete had purchased books online in the past three months, while 41% had bought movies, music and video games—all purchases most likely to be researched directly on a retailer’s site. Apparel followed, with electronics, shoes and health and beauty products rounding out the leading categories purchased online.

eMarketer expects US retail ecommerce spending on books, music and video to reach $20.4 billion this year, making it the third-largest product category shopped online in terms of sales volume. Apparel and accessories will come in ahead at $41 billion, while computers and consumer electronics will form the largest category, with $48.6 billion in online retail sales this year. Sales are growing most quickly in apparel and accessories.

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