Online Product Research More Popular Than Ever

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More Americans than ever are using the Internet to research products and post reviews – even if they end up heading to the store to make their purchase.

That’s according to the latest research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that 58% of Americans have used the Internet to research a product or service before buying it. Many of those surveyed conducted such research on a regular basis, as 21% reported having researched a product that day. That’s up from just 9% in 2004.

“Even if they end up making their purchase in a store, they start their fact-finding and decision-making on the Internet,” says Jim Jansen, the report’s author.

Not only are consumers using researching products, they’re actively adding to the review process. The survey found that 24% of Americans have posted a product review or comment online, contributing to a thriving online community that shares information on products. Most retailers allow users to post comments and reviews on product pages, and numerous shopping portals and review aggregators like Yelp allow shoppers to read and create reviews of products and establishments.

The results indicate that the Web has indeed revolutionized shopping, though in some unexpected ways. The rise of online commerce in the 1990s was seen as a threat to brick-and-mortar stores, yet a Pew survey in May of this year found that only a little more than half of Americans had purchased a retail product online. That this number is exceeded by the percentage conducting online product research suggests that the real value of the Internet has been in creating a more educated consumer – not one who doesn’t leave the house.

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