U.S. consumers reluctant to purchase certain consumer electronics products online, 19% would purchase TV online, 23% would purchase smartphone, 34% would purchase a computer, NPD reports

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

PORT WASHINGTON, New York , September 15, 2011 (press release) – 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.

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