A recent report from the Pew Research Center detailing the online shopping habits of Americans confirmed several widely held beliefs about consumers and shows how starkly e-commerce has affected their lives since the turn of the century. In Online Shopping and E-Commerce, Pew found 80 percent of U.S. shoppers have made an online purchase of any type. Only 16 years ago—about 6 years after the debut of online commerce—that number was 22 percent. As the Pew report describes it: that’s about as many people today who have made an online purchase directly through a social media site. Also, mobile continues to grow, with more than half of U.S. consumers having made an online purchase on a smartphone.
And yes, younger consumers are more likely to buy online—and especially using a mobile device—than older shoppers. Ninety percent of 18-29 year olds polled indicated they had made an online purchase compared to 87 percent of 30-49 year olds, 72 percent of 50-64 year olds and even a solid majority of consumers 65 and over (59 percent). M-commerce really is still for the young: Seventy-seven percent of 18-29 year olds reported having used their smartphone to make an online purchase. That percentage dropped to 64 for 30-49 year olds and 36 for 50-64 year olds. Only 17 percent of shoppers 65 or over have made an online purchase using their mobile phone.
While a strong majority of Americans still reported they prefer to shop in stores (65 percent), Pew found pricing ultimately drives the decision: When asked a second question about their relative preferences for online and in-person shopping that incorporates pricing, an identical 65 percent indicated that if they needed to make a purchase they would probably compare the price they could get online with the price they could get from physical stores and choose whichever one offered them the best deal.