According to The Compete Online Shopper Intelligence study, over 80 million consumers use shopping comparison sites every month. Sites like Cnet, Bizrate, and Yahoo! Shopping each attract over 20 million shoppers.  Only 6% of consumers surveyed as part of the study indicated that they conducted no research prior to their last online purchase. 

From instant price comparisons, to first hand consumer reviews, to video demonstrations, shoppers are taking advantage of this wealth of information. Consumers depend on search engines more than other resources to help them shop online.  When shopping online, 3 out of 5 shoppers said that they always or often use search engines.  More consumers use search engines than they do coupon sites, retailer emails, consumer reviews, or shopping comparison sites.

The study finds that the differences in consumer behavior across various industries have vast implications for retailers within each sector. Sales assistants, both in store and on web chat, are utilized by online shoe shoppers more than any other shoppers.  Online kitchenware & household appliance purchasers are among the most reliant on in store product displays.

In the apparel industry, only 1 out of 10 apparel shoppers stated that they used a search engine for their last online purchase.  Instead, they rely on retailer emails and catalogs to learn about products.  That means consumers are more likely to purchase from apparel retailers they have purchased from in the past and are less likely to discover new retailers.

Electronic shoppers, on the other hand, actively seek out new products and manufactures, says the report.  Search engines, professional reviews, social generated reviews, and recommendations from family and friends were among the top 5 resources used.  Electronic manufactures can reach and influence these consumers more easily though a variety of media.

It is essential, says the report, for retailers to understand how consumers in their space shop online, in order to effectively retain and acquire customers. Retailers should understand their particular customer niche and develop strategies unique to them, concludes the report.

“The Compete Online Shopper Intelligence study,” conducted by Compete.com.  Web.  March 2010.