How the Well-Heeled Hunt

A Home Electronics Journal survey shows that 93.3 percent of affluent Americans research their upcoming consumer electronics purchases on the Internet before making the trip to Best Buy or Circuit City to actually buy the items. The national report focuses of 2,108 consumers with incomes of $100,000 or more, conducted with market intelligence firm BIGresearch. Respondents said that their online research was conducted using a combination of search engines (62.8 percent), product Web sites (62.2 percent), and email newsletters (27.5 percent). About one-quarter (24.5 percent) of respondents say they spend an hour researching online before making a purchase, while another one-fifth (20.5 percent) say they send two hours online before buying. For the purchase of electronics products, an overwhelming majority stated that its preferred retailer is Best Buy (72.8 percent), followed by Circuit City (45.1 percent), and Wal-Mart (26.3 percent). Many of these products are also available online, but most affluent customers still go to the physical store to make the purchase, according to Journal Publisher Roy Weiss. "People still want to see and touch the product." Best Buy's dominance is due a better selection than a mass-market retailer like Wal-Mart and a well-trained sales staff that can answer customer questions, according to Weiss. The online retailers are doing a poor job of marketing the convenience of online purchases, most of which can be done in a few minutes (rather than driving to a retail store, then standing in line) with next day delivery, according to Weiss. Other online retailers still suffer from a cumbersome ordering process, so they can't even offer the benefit of more convenience. When this group was presented with different product categories and asked whether they were likely to make purchases of those products online or at retail, the categories that they reported they were likely or somewhat likely to buy at retail included portable gaming devices (67.5 percent), PDA cell phones (65.4 percent), home theater systems (67.2 percent), and televisions (58.8 percent). Products they were likely to purchase online were primarily computer equipment-laptops (59.2 percent), desktops (61.1 percent), and printers (57.2 percent). "Advertisers that truly understand the varying degrees of the consumer's comfort level with purchases made online are at a great advantage," Weiss says. "Knowledge of which products are more likely to be bought via retail Web sites versus those that would be more successfully promoted with a drive to retail will enhance online marketing efforts and generate more profitable results." Related articles: The Young and the Rich: The New Thrifty
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