GLOBAL: Almost half of internet users around the world plan to make an online purchase in the next six months, but those in Latin America are more likely to restrict themselves to browsing than buying, unlike their Asian counterparts, according to new research.

The Nielsen Global Survey of E-commerce polled more than 30,000 internet respondents in 60 countries to examine the online shopping and purchasing intentions of consumers worldwide.

Both Latin America and Asia-Pacific surpassed the global average for all 22 categories considered when it came to online browsing, but actual buying rates were among the lowest in Latin America and among the highest in Asia-Pacific. 

Nielsen noted that in 14 categories buying rates in Asia had exceeded browsing rates, so comfortable were consumers there with buying online. This was particularly true of China, which Patrick Dodd, Nielsen China managing director, described as "one of the furthest along on the e-commerce maturity curve".

John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives at Nielsen, said the online retail infrastructure in Latin America had yet to catch up with offering conversion opportunities. "Other barriers to e-commerce success include internet access, shipping costs, high taxes and problematic delivery logistics," he added.

One possibility that could encourage greater take-up of ecommerce in developing markets, he suggested, was to use mobile to attract new buyers, as this provided greater and faster access to more people.

Online browsing and buying percentages were similar in western Europe and North America, where online retailing is now simply one more channel competing for market share. The Middle East and Africa, however, were lower than average, largely because of a lack of opportunity.

The categories most likely to feature in online purchase intentions over the next six months were clothing (46%), and airline (48%) and hotel (44%) reservations, and Nielsen noted a largely one-to-one correlation between browsing and buying for these.

Consumable products had lower online browse/buy intention rates than non-consumable products, but their browse-to-buy correlation rates were equally strong. Thus, 33% of global respondents said they browsed cosmetics, with 31% buying; 31% browsed personal care products, 29% bought; 30% browsed groceries, 29% bought.

The browse-to-buy spread became more significant for high-priced items, such as consumer electronics and cars.

Burbank pointed out that strong online browse-to-buy conversion rates translated to loyal repeat customers. "Now is the time to create omni-channel experiences for consumers who are actively using both digital and physical platforms to research and purchase," he urged, "as consumers increasingly don't make a distinction between the two."

Data sourced from Nielsen, Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff