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Shoppers head to the web to research consumer electronics but are reluctant to buy online

Would-be shoppers are heading online in droves to research their next consumer electronics purchases but more often than not they won’t end up clicking on the “purchase now” button.

The incidences of web-shopping are increasing in the US and the search-online-and-buy-in store phenomenon is not as evident across all sectors of the consumer electronics (CE) market but there is evidence of a strong trend.

Consumers are willing to purchase consumer software, computers, digital cameras and e-readers on the web but are reluctant to splurge on a TV, home audio system or camcorder without testing it out in the store.

Research published by market analyst The NPD Group shows TVs as the fourth most researched CE product online (56 percent), however, according to the same research only 19 percent of Americans surveyed said they would purchase a TV online (making it the least likely electronics product consumers would actually purchase online).

On the other hand, 66 percent of Americans will research their next computer purchase online and 34 percent say they are extremely or very likely to make their computer purchase 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 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."

The online research and purchasing divide may also 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.

In the UK, online market place eBay is seeing phenomenal growth in online shopping via smartphones.

According to an article on The Next Web, more than 10 percent of eBay users in the UK are purchasing goods via their mobile device.

Angus McCarey, Retail Director for eBay UK revealed that “With consumers having instant access on-the-move, mobile shopping has come of age and as such retailers who don’t take steps to embrace it now risk being left behind. While it took years for internet shopping to become mainstream, we believe mobile commerce will do it in less than half the time. Indeed, if sales on our UK site are anything to go by, we have never before seen such significant year over year growth – currently at triple digits.”

The NPD Group’s list of top consumer electronics products US consumers were "extremely" or "very likely" to purchase online, included the following:

  1. Computer software | 34%
  2. Computer | 34%
  3. eReader | 32%
  4. Digital Camera | 30%
  5. Computer accessories/peripherals | 30%
  6. Tablet computer | 29%
  7. Printer | 24%
  8. Smartphone/mobile phone | 23%
  9. Camcorder | 21%
  10. Blu-ray player | 21%
  11. Home audio | 20%
  12. Television | 19%