Pew: Web Information Seekers Have High Expectations

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Even merchants who don't sell online reportedly can drive more retail sales by putting product information on their Web sites.


Forty-six percent of participants in a just-released report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said that if a store offered product information but did not sell products on its Web site, they still would be more likely to go to the merchant's physical store to buy the product.


"In other words, having a Web site helps a business even if it does not enable transactions," the report said.


The report is based on telephone interviews of 2,092 adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates from Sept. 9 to Oct. 6, according to Pew, Washington. Of those surveyed, 1,318 were Internet users; the rest gave their opinions based on their expectations of what the Internet offers.


Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they expect to find information on store Web sites about products they want to buy. Also, 79 percent of Internet users and 38 percent of non-users said they expect to find product information online, the report said.


Success rates for online purchases are high, as 85 percent of those who have ever bought products online said they "always" or "most of the time" can find products they seek, the report said. Twenty-nine percent said they always find the products they look for online.


By the beginning of October, 72 million Internet users had made a purchase online, according to Pew.


About 82 million, or about 70 percent of U.S. Internet users, have gone online for news. Of those, 87 percent have found what they were looking for, based on survey responses.


About one-quarter of the online population looks for news on a typical day, the report said, compared with 59 percent of Internet users who watch television news regularly. However, the gap closes with broadband, as 43 percent of high-speed Internet users go online for news on a typical day while 60 percent of broadband users watch TV news on a typical day.


When Internet users fail to find the news they seek online, 34 percent of respondents said they turn to cable, 30 percent said they look in a newspaper, 15 percent said they try network news, 5 percent said radio and 11 percent said they would stop looking.


Americans also have high expectations for finding government information online, the report found. Of those surveyed, 65 percent said they expect to find such information online. Of the 57 percent who have gone to a government Web site, 74 percent said they will turn to the Internet first when they next want government information.


Seventy-one percent of the Internet users said they "always" or "most of the time" can find the government information they want online, with 20 percent saying they always find what they need.


According to the report, an estimated 71 million Americans had gone online to find government information by mid-2002, up from 40 million in March 2000.


Healthcare information is another area where Americans rely on the Internet. Sixty-seven percent of respondents -- 81 percent of Internet users and 45 percent of non-users -- said they expect to find reliable medical information online.


The success rate here also is apparently good, as 76 percent of so-called health seekers said they "always" or "most of the time" find what they are looking for. Twenty-eight percent said they always find the health information they seek.


Also, 46 percent of Internet users said they will use the Internet the next time they need reliable healthcare information. Thirty-one percent of Americans overall said they will turn to the Internet the next time they need reliable healthcare information.


One reason for increasingly sophisticated use of the Internet is the large population of veteran users. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said they have been online for three years or more, and 38 percent said they have been online six years or more.


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