Editorial: Knee-Deep in Studies

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It's fascinating what studies can reveal about consumers' psyche ... and their buying habits, too. Let's look at some studies released last week.

• As customer service continues its decline into the abyss (this comment is based on recent examples I've experienced, but that's another story), a study from ForeSee Results looked at what factors influence online shoppers' purchasing decisions. The results emphasized the importance of enhancing the overall site experience, not just driving consumers to a Web site with promotions and price. The study also found that a big gap often exists between browsers' likelihood to purchase online and their likelihood to purchase through an offline channel. Many companies do much better in one channel or the other, and few have mastered more than one.

• A study by Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that most consumers don't realize e-tailers and brick-and-mortar retailers can charge different prices to different consumers for the same products. Two-thirds of adult Internet users think it's illegal to change the price of a product, and a similar number think online travel sites are required by law to offer the lowest airline prices possible. The study also urged government officials to require retailers to disclose exactly what information is collected about customers and how it is used.

• Remember when you went to the bathroom with a newspaper or magazine and that was about it? Well, a study by Opinion Research Corp. said Americans have become so addicted to e-mail that some are checking their messages in the bathroom, in church and while driving. (Watching my friend Jim type on his BlackBerry in stop-and-go traffic is unnerving. I don't ride with Jim very much.) The study also found that the average e-mail user has two or three accounts and spends an hour a day reading, sending and replying to messages. Twenty-five percent of the respondents are so dependent on e-mail that they can't go more than two or three days without checking their messages.

• An ongoing study by Cingular Wireless shows that men spend more time talking on their cell phones than women. Now in its fifth year, the study found that men use their cell phones 35 percent more than women, 571 minutes a month versus 424 minutes. Why? It's all business. Twice as many men use their mobile phones for work. Convenience remains the top reason for both sexes using their mobile phones, with 62 percent indicating they mainly use their wireless phones for convenience purposes. Safety was second at 19 percent.

Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on www.dmnews.com and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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