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Most Americans now shop online

Almost every American consumer has now shopped online, according to year-old data released this week.

Pew Research has undertaken research on US shoppers’ online habits and compared the results with similar studies conducted in 2009 and 2000. It released the results this week – but they are already a whole year out of date, based on nearly 5000 respondents in November-December last year, suggesting the percentages could be even higher now.

The number of consumers who said they have bought goods online rose from 22 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent in 2007 and to 79 per cent last year. Fifty-one per cent say they have used their mobile devices to shop and 15 per cent have bought through social media.

“The proliferation of ways to purchase in just a decade is incredible,” says Aaron Smith, associate director of research at Pew. “A decade ago, buying something online using a cellphone wasn’t ‘a thing,’ and now half the population is doing that.”

While the results make for a good headline, the devil, as always, is in the detail. Just 15 per cent of shoppers shop online every week, and 28 per cent purchase a few times each month. Some 37 per cent say they buy goods online “less than a few times a month”.

And in a small reassurance for brick-and-mortar retailers, 65 per cent of those who shop online say that when given the choice, they generally prefer to buy from physical locations. Just 34 per cent generally prefer to buy online.

Two-thirds of shoppers say they compare prices online with in-store and typically choose to buy from whichever is the cheapest source.

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