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PAINTING SOME PICTURES OF THE ONLINE SHOPPER

Source: New York Times

Posted on July 9, 2001

      For Internet retailers trying to understand why some consumers eagerly shop online, while others rarely click the "buy" button, a new study aims to offer insight into the attitudes underlying their behavior.

      The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, divides Internet users into eight psychological profiles, ranging from "shopping lovers" to "shopping avoiders."

      Despite the nuances of the eight categories, William R. Swinyard, who conducted the study with a fellow B.Y.U. professor, Scott M. Smith, said: "The online shoppers are distinguished from the nonshoppers by a single differentiator: credit card fear. They are fearful of the computer and are afraid they won't get their merchandise or that their credit card will be stolen."

      The study, underwritten by I.B.M., surveyed 4,000 adults who had Internet access at home, and asked them if they had made a purchase over the Internet during November or December 2000. Based on more than 1,700 usable surveys returned, here is what the researchers were able to divine about the types of people who do -- or do not -- buy products online:

Shopping Lovers (11.1 percent of Internet users) Enjoy shopping online and do so frequently; encourage friends to buy online, too, so they are an attractive target for online retailers.

Adventurous Explorers (8.9 percent) Think online shopping is fun, but also use the Internet extensively for other activities; need to be wooed by retailers. Suspicious Learners (9.6 percent) Less sophisticated about computers and reluctant to buy online; not necessarily afraid to give out credit card numbers, but need coaxing through the buying process.

Business Users (12.4 percent) Very computer literate, but use Internet primarily for business, so are not enthusiastic champions of shopping online. Fearful Browsers (10.7 percent) Have adequate computer and Internet skills, and spend time "window shopping" online, but worry about credit card security, shipping charges and buying products sight unseen.

Fun Seekers (12.1 percent) The least wealthy and least educated market segment; see entertainment value in the Internet, but are wary of shopping online; less attractive to retailers because of limited spending power.

Technology Muddlers (19.6 percent) Spend less time online than any other segment and show little interest in improving computer and Internet skills; not an attractive market for online retailers.

Shopping Avoiders (15.6 percent) Make enough money to shop, but do not like to wait for products to be shipped and like to see merchandise before buying; a lost cause for Internet merchants.




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