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Catherine Borrel, research manager, IAB Europe
Over 70% of UK internet users cite the web as the first place they go to when researching products to buy, giving online information a pivotal position in purchase decisions.
IAB Europe launched the Consumer Commerce Barometer in partnership with Google and TNS to measure the role of the web in commerce. This project looks at both research and purchasing behaviour of consumers across 36 product categories. The results look past the online purchases to pinpoint the role the web has played in all purchases, online and offline.
The UK has one of the most advanced ecommerce markets in Europe, illustrated by the variety of product categories that are commonly purchased online. Whereas in many countries only travel and technology products are frequently bought online, UK internet users are also more likely to buy CD/DVDs, event tickets and insurance online than offline.
Of course, the web is an information touchpoint for consumers long before purchase takes place, and marketers must not overlook the opportunities presented during the online research process. Some product categories see almost perfect correlation between research and purchase behaviours - cosmetics and beauty products show 12% of web users both research and purchase; for toys, 24% of users researched them online while 21% bought online.
Other product categories see a stronger emphasis on research than purchase. Of online consumers who had recently purchased domestic appliances, 35% did so online yet 53% had researched their choice online (rising to 57% of 30-49-year-old women). Similarly, 16% of users who had purchased home furnishings did so online, while 29% had done some research online (rising to 36% of 14-29-year-old women).
There’s also a small group of products where the research/purchase pattern is inverted, so online purchasers outnumber online researchers. While 45% of web users who buy books do so online, only 34% research their choices online. Similarly, 58% of users who buy CDs and DVDs do so online, with only 41% researching online first.
The more marketers know about the path to purchase for a particular product category, the more relevant they can make their messages, leading with information for research-heavy categories, or retailer and price options for the more direct purchase categories.