Consumers getting more adventurous with online purchases

(Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/

(Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/


, Last Updated: 5:46 PM ET

It's little surprise that consumers the world over are shopping more online. From e-books and airline tickets to hotel reservations, the net is becoming a one-stop shop for discovery, researching, browsing and buying. So much so that, according to the Nielsen Global survey of ecommerce, which polled over 30,000 web users in 60 countries, the chances are that if a consumer starts a search for a product online, they will end up making an online purchase too.

"The lightning-fast pace of change in the digital landscape has ushered in a consumer mindset that is both adventurous and exploratory when it comes to online shopping," said John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives at Nielsen. "Consumers everywhere want a good product at a good price, and the seemingly limitless options available in a virtual environment provide new opportunities for both merchants and consumers."

This behavior is particularly true of categories such as apparel, event tickets, books and toys, and elements of a holiday -- travel, dining and accommodation reservations. Demand is high -- almost half of all respondents intend to make an online purchase in one of these categories within the next six months -- and according to Nielsen, the correlation between online searching and online shopping is one-to-one.

However, other categories where traditional retailers still have a stronghold and where the internet is more of a research tool -- cosmetics, groceries, baby supplies and pet products -- are increasingly being bought as well as browsed online too. For example, over the past three years, intention to buy baby products online has jumped 12 percentage points to 20% of respondents.

Still, for high-ticket items, such as cars, sporting goods, and electronic devices such as computer and smartphones, the internet remains predominantly a source of information rather than a point of sale.

Breaking the results down by region, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region are the kings of online browsing, surpassing the global average for each type of product category. However, Latin Americans are the least likely to make an online purchase and Asia Pacific consumers the most likely. According to Nielsen they are also the most likely to buy online without first browsing.

"Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities," said Burbank. "Other barriers to e-commerce success include Internet access, shipping costs, high taxes and problematic delivery logistics. Asia is the farthest down the e-commerce maturity curve -- in Asia-Pacific, tech-savvy consumers have already embraced the convenience of online shopping. Attracting new buyers using mobile could be an accelerator in developing markets, as it provides greater and faster access to more people."

In terms of devices, smartphones are catching up with computers when it comes to online shopping -- 44% of all respondents said that they have made online purchases via their handsets and in the Middle East and Africa that figure jumps to 55%. Just over half (52%) of Asia Pacific respondents also use a phone for online shopping, as do 48% of Latin American consumers and 33% of Europeans.

"The study shows the ascendancy of the mobile device as a primary device for e-commerce consumers around the globe," said Burbank. "The use of these devices introduces all sorts of questions for retailers and manufacturers alike. For instance, will consumers still make shopping trips-buying a whole basket full of items at a time -- or will consumers shop throughout the day, one or two items at a time, shifting from retailer to retailer in the process? How will these potentially new shopping patterns impact age-old practices? Over the coming year or two, the industry will need to examine these habits in more detail."