NEW YORK: Consumers are growing accustomed to going online to buy brands, though purchase intent varies widely depending on the product category, research firm Nielsen has indicated.

Respondents from 56 countries replied to the new Nielsen survey, which found that 49% of respondents bought a product online via a connected device during the first quarter of 2012.

Additionally, 60% used the internet to research their grocery shopping decisions.

Nielsen also discovered significant variations between product categories when consumers were asked whether or not they planned purchases over the next three to six months.

In all, 26% said they would buy food and beverage brands, an 8 percentage point (pp) increase from when the same survey was taken during the first quarter of 2010.

The apparel and accessories category was the most commonly-cited on the new survey, with 37% planning purchases of this kind, down from 36% in 2010.

Other growth categories were computer and games software, which grew 18pp to 29%, entertainment tickets, up 10pp to 30%, and computer and games hardware, up 18pp to 29%.

Skin care and cosmetics also rose in consideration, with an increase from 22% to 25% of consumers reporting plans to buy via a digital device.  

More broadly, purchase intent increased across virtually all product categories between 2010 and 2012. The only decline was in hard copy books and physical magazine subscriptions, which registered a fall from 44% to 33%.

By contrast, 20% of consumers said they would make a purchase in the newly-created category for electronic books and digital subscriptions.

"Connected devices have become a way of life for many, but shoppers are digitally engaged to varying degrees depending on the products they buy," the Nielsen report added.

The survey also highlighted an increasing role for social media in the retail world, with 46% of respondents reporting that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter influenced their purchase decisions.

Data sourced from Neilsen; additional content by Warc staff