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Consumers reluctant to buy CE online, NPD study claims

 16 September 2011      

PORT WASHINGTON, New York (15 September 2011) - U.S. consumers are still reluctant to purchase a number of consumer electronics products online, according to a new study published by the NPD Group, a market research firm based here. Although the survey didn't include Canadian consumers, the trends are likely to apply north of the border.

The report - E-commerce and Consumer Electronics: Online Shopping & Purchasing - maintains 63% of consumers research CE purchases via the web, but only about half actually make the purchase online.

For example, although 56% of consumers reporting researching televisions online before entering the store, only 19% actually purchased a new set online - making televisions the least likely CE product consumers will actually buy via the internet.

Smartphones showed a similar pattern: 52% of consumers did their research online, but just 23% said they could imagine themselves going online to purchase one.

Personal computers are the most likely CE category to be purchased online, according to NPD. The survey showed 66% of consumers researched the category online and 34% said they expected to actually purchase their new PC online.

"It's not surprising to see that so many consumers won't buy TVs, smartphones, and other popular CE products online, despite using the Internet to perform basic product research," Stephen Baker, NPD vice president of industry analysis, said in a statement.  "Computers and other IT products have a much longer history online with a wider variety of outlets, including direct sales from manufacturers, for consumers to choose from."

Other C.E. products consumers said they are ‘extremely' or ‘very likely' to purchase online include: camcorder (21%); Blu-ray player (21%); and, home audio systems (20%).

"Part of consumers' unwillingness to purchase certain electronics online might be due to a lack of awareness, or as a result of the slow pace taken by many traditional C.E. companies establishing a direct-to-consumer buying presence on the web, or it could be something inherent in the products themselves, such as price or complexity," Baker said. "Whatever the cause, the result is a badly skewed online sales mix that relies heavily on a narrow range of products, and one that doesn't adequately address some of the more exciting growth opportunities."

According to Baker, "retailers continue to have an edge with consumers, when they can leverage their physical storefronts with a strong online presence."

More than three quarters (76%) of all consumers say they have used a retailer's website to research a potential purchase, compared to just 62% for manufacturer-direct shoppers and 65% for online-only shoppers. Reinforcing consumers comfort with a multi-channel approach to gathering information, NPD's data shows using retailers' stores and websites are among the top five activities consumers do when they first begin to consider purchasing consumer electronics.

NPD has an office in Toronto and does some market on the market in Canada. For more information about the study, visit the company's web site at

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