Almost everyone shops online, but most people still prefer physical stores, study shows

Here’s what retailers are expecting you’ll spend during your holiday shopping this year.

Online shopping may be the new norm — especially when it comes to scouring for good deals — but a new report finds that, despite a sea change in consumer behavior, American shoppers still fancy the old-fashioned, bricks-and-mortar experience.

Roughly 8 in 10 people, or 79%, have bought something online, according to the latest findings from the Pew Research Center, which conducts public opinion polling and surveyed a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults in December 2015. The figure represents a drastic increase compared with 16 years ago: Pew first asked about online shopping in a June 2000 survey and found that just 22% of Americans had engaged in the behavior.

Yet even with the proliferation of e-commerce, a majority of Americans (64%) prefer making purchases at physical stores rather than buying online when all things are equal, Pew found.


The fondness for physical stores, however, is almost always overruled by more practical matters.

“Even as many online shoppers express preferences for physical stores in the abstract, their ultimate decision of where to buy something often comes down to price,” report authors Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson said.

The survey found that 65% of the population said they’d buy from the venue — online or off — that offers them the best price. On the other hand, about 1 in 5 people (21%) indicated they would buy from stores without checking prices online, while 14% said they would buy online without first checking prices at physical locations.

The bricks-and-mortar bent isn’t just limited to older folks, either.

In an annual shopping study from market research firm GfK, fielded earlier this year, nearly half, or 47%, of U.S. shoppers 18 to 24 said they’ve participated in a behavior called “webrooming,” which means researching a product online but buying it in person. The opposite — “showrooming” — means looking at a product in a physical store but then buying it online.

Van Grove writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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