LONDON: Two-thirds of global web users have purchased something online in the last month, a new study has indicated.
GlobalWebIndex interviewed more than 61,000 internet users in 31 different markets between Q2 and Q4 2012 for its State of Global E-Commerce report, which also suggested that nine in ten of the overall purchases made by the world's digital population were either researched or made via the web.
"The internet is now critical to every business," said Tom Smith, founder of GlobalWebIndex. "Even if products are not actually bought online, they are researched there. Any business that fails to get its digital presence right including mobile is losing custom."
Consumers are most likely to buy books, clothing and travel products online, the study discovered, while items least likely to be purchased include cars, laundry detergent and alcohol.
And even when consumers buy products via traditional outlets, they will still carry out a great deal of research online. This trend was particularly noticeable for sectors such as mobile phones, desktop computers and holidays abroad.
In terms of purchase platform, there are clear distinctions between markets. The Asia-Pacific region, for example is more likely to buy via mobile, with China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam making up the top seven mobile / tablet e-commerce markets.
China is the largest and most active online retail market in the world with 80% purchasing in the past month.
In longer-established internet markets, such as the UK and US, purchases are still likely to be done via a PC, but even here, the situation is changing. Data from the UK, for example, shows that the proportion of consumers using mobile phones to search for products has risen from less than 10% in 2009 to nearly 30% at the end of 2012.
As well as researching and purchasing online, 69% of global internet users publish their opinion either via review, blog post, micro-blog or social network mention.
"In addition to the clear evidence from our survey of the impact of digital, the anecdotal evidence of a massive switch in the way we buy products is also overwhelming," remarked Smith.
"Whether it's stories of people buying tea bags online or using Amazon UK to get nappies to Greece, we all know people adopting purchase behaviours that would have seemed unthinkable even a few years ago."
Data sourced from GlobalWebIndex; additional content by Warc staff