You have asked a very interesting question. I have compiled a variety
of studies which focus on comparisons between online and offline
consumer behavior in relation to different products. As you can see,
each study focuses on a particular aspect of consumer behavior or
product catagory, so there are no sweeping conclusions. However, you
should be able to use the following references to formulate some
general ideas for your research, and perhaps decide on a more narrow
Consumers often use the internet for product research before buying offline.
"Online Research Drives Offline Sales," By Dawn Anfuso. October 07, 2004.
"Study shows the Internet's role as a consumer product information
utility is much larger than its role as a direct selling medium.
Online product research conducted by consumers the past year drove
$180.7 billion in offline spending, compared to $106.5 billion in
direct online consumer spending, according to new research findings
from The American Interactive Consumer Survey, conducted by The
Dieringer Research Group."
"The survey of 3,000 U.S. adults covered online and offline purchasing
behaviors and impacts during the 12-month period ending the second
quarter this year."
"The new annual spending data indicate that at least $1.70 is spent
offline after doing online research for every consumer dollar spent
directly online," says Thomas E. Miller, senior consultant at The
Dieringer Research Group."
A bad online experience can force some consumers offline, or away from
a brand altogether.
"Top Online Retailers Are Leaving Money On the Table." FGI Research. 06/2005
"Despite strong increases in online consumer spending, a new study
shows that many of the nation?s top retailers are performing well
below their potential online and may be inadvertently driving away
some people who would otherwise make purchases."
"ForeSee Results and FGI Research produced the study, based on surveys
of consumers who browsed the 40 highest-grossing e-retail sites, which
scores and ranks web sites on the basis of how well they are
delivering the kind of experience site visitors want. Falling short in
this area can cause web site visitors to spend their money elsewhere
and, in some cases, the sites were found to negatively impact future
offline spending with the same brand."
"The survey revealed that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are,
in general, dramatically under-utilizing the online channel. Most
companies measured in this category - with the noteworthy exception of
Barnes & Noble, an online star - have a huge gap between likelihood to
buy online vs. offline."
Shopping online can mean more "freedom" for consumers.
"SHOPPING ONLINE FOR FREEDOM, CONTROL AND FUN." M Wolfinbarger, MC
Gilly - California Management Review, 2001
"As they do offline, consumers shop online for both goal-oriented and
experiential reasons; in short, they shop to acquire items, and they
shop to shop. However, goal-oriented motives are more common among
online shoppers than are experiential motives. We identify and discuss
attributes that facilitate goal-oriented online shopping, including
accessibility/convenience, selection, information availability and
lack of unwanted sociality from retail sales help or shopping partners
such as spouses.
** Importantly, consumers report that shopping online results in a
substantially increased sense of freedom and control as compared to
offline shopping. While consumers are more likely to describe offline
rather than online shopping in experiential terms, we find evidence of
experiential motivations for online shopping emerging.
"We offer managerial implications of mixing online and offline
shopping, suggest ways in which the experiential aspects of online
shopping can be enhanced without interfering with the goal-oriented
desires of consumers, and explore the difficulty of creating an online
community. Finally, while closing transactions at websites is one
important e-commerce goal, companies should not lose site of the
continuing importance and power of their website as an information and
communications vehicle as well."
Different product categories affect preferences for online and offline
purchase, and thus affect marketing strategies.
"PRODUCT CATEGORY DEPENDENT CONSUMER PREFERENCES FOR ONLINE AND
OFFLINE SHOPPING FEATURES AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON MULTICHANNEL RETAIL
ALLIANCES." Aron M. Levin, Irwin P. Levin and C. Edward Heath. Journal
of Electronic Commerce Research, VOL. 4, NO. 3, 2003
"This paper addresses the question of how to combine online and
offline services in the most complementary way for different product
classes. In a series of surveys conducted for Experiment 1 it was
determined that consumers? preferences for online and offline services
differ for different products at different stages of the shopping
experience. These differences were accounted for by a model that
weights the importance of different attributes for different products
and assigns different values to these attributes depending on whether
they are better served online or offline. For example, for products
like clothing consumers place great value on the ability to touch and
inspect the product and thus they prefer offline, bricks-and-mortar
services at each stage of the shopping experience. By contrast, for
products like computer software consumers place great value on the
rapid dissemination of large amounts of information through Internet
search, but many are concerned about speedy delivery and nohassle
exchange which leads them to make their final purchases offline....."
Online consumer brand loyalty differs between large and small market
share brands. Offline, no real difference in brand loyalty is
"A Comparison of Online and Offline Consumer Brand Loyalty." Peter J.
Danaher, Isaac W. Wilson and Robert A. Davis. Volume: 22 Issue: 4
"In this study we compare consumer brand loyalty in online and
traditional shopping environments for over 100 brands in 19 grocery
product categories. The online purchase data come from a large
traditional grocery retailer that also operates an online store for
its products. The offline data corresponds to the exact same brands
and categories bought in traditional stores by a panel of homes
operated by ACNielsen for purchases made in the same city and over the
same time period. We compare the observed loyalty with a baseline
model, a new segmented Dirichlet model, which has latent classes for
brand choice and provides a very accurate model for purchase behavior.
The results show that observed brand loyalty for high market share
brands bought online is significantly greater than expected, with the
reverse result for small share brands. In contrast, in the traditional
shopping environment, the difference between observed and predicted
brand loyalty is not related to brand share."
The following paper examines several criteria for differences in
shopping behavior for particular products on and offline:
"Consumer Choice Behavior in Online and Traditional Supermarkets: The
Effects of Brand Name, Price, and Other Search Attributes,"
International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol.17,No.1,p.55-78.
"Are brand names more valuable online or in traditional supermarkets?
Does the increasing availability of comparative price information
online make consumers more price-sensitive? We address these and
related questions by first conceptualizing how different store
environments (online and traditional stores) can differentially affect
consumer choices. We use the liquid detergent, soft margarine spread,
and paper towel categories to test our hypotheses. Our hypotheses and
the empirical results from our choice models indicate that:
(1) Brand names become more important online in some categories but
not in others depending on the extent of information available to
consumers - brand names are more valuable when information on fewer
attributes is available online,
(2) Sensory search attributes, particularly visual cues about the
product (e.g., paper towel design), have lower impact on choices
online, and factual information (i.e., non-sensory attributes, such as
the fat content of margarine) have higher impact on choices
(3) Price sensitivity is higher online, but this is due to online
promotions being stronger signals of price discounts. The combined
effect of price and promotion on choice is weaker online than offline.
The following study, which focuses on supermarket products, finds that
online consumers are less sensitive to price, are less particular
about product size, and screen more for brand names.
"Behavioural differences between consumers attracted to shopping
online versus traditional supermarkets: implications for enterprise
design and marketing strategy." R.L. Andrews and I.S. Currim. Int. J.
Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2004
"Despite the dot.com shakeout, online revenues continue to increase
and are projected to impose greater pressure on traditional
distribution channels. However, there is a striking absence of
published empirical work on how consumers attracted to shopping online
behave relative to consumers shopping in a traditional store. Such
behavioural differences, if they exist, could guide online enterprise
design and marketing strategy. This study uses
data from both traditional supermarket scanners and an online
supermarket to test expected differences in choice behaviours of such
"For two product categories, statistically significant differences are
found between consumers attracted to shopping online versus
traditional supermarkets with regard to the parameters describing the
choice process. Compared to traditional supermarket consumers, online
consumers are less price sensitive, prefer larger sizes to smaller
sizes (or at least have weaker preferences for small sizes), have
stronger size loyalty, do more screening on the basis of brand names
but less screening on the basis of sizes, and have stronger choice set
effects. Many of these differences are found to be prevalent among the
majority of online consumers rather than due to the substantially
unique behaviour of a minority. Indeed, 11 to 39% of traditional
supermarket consumers (depending on the product category) are found to
behave like the majority of online consumers whilst 0 to 31% of online
consumers are found to behave like the majority of traditional
supermarket consumers. Implications of both sets of results for online
enterprise design, marketing, and evolution are outlined."
The following study examines the different factors affecting buying
behavior from online and offline retailers.
"Buying for different reasons? An integrative model of the likelihood
of purchasing clothes on-line and in physical stores." Fang Wan.
e-Lab, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University
"This study aimed to accomplish two tasks - to compare consumers?
perceptions of purchasing clothes from two different shopping channels
(on-line stores and physical stores) and to test an integrative model
composed of theoretically important factors influencing consumers?
shopping behavior. Consistent with previous findings that the Web was
neither a mature nor an effective shopping channel for complex
products that need to be touched, the results showed that consumers
perceived buying clothes from on-line stores to be inferior to buying
clothes from physical stores in all aspects examined - channel
attribute, expected gratification, perceived risk and trust, and
affective reaction to the purchase. When the integrative model was
tested, the underlying processes for buying clothes on-line was found
to be different from those used to purchase of clothes from a physical
store. Consumers were more likely to be driven by their dispositional
and socioeconomic characteristics when buying from a traditional
shopping channel, while they were more concerned with the perceived
vendor characteristics (e.g., expected gratification, perceived risk,
perceived efficiency of the purchase from the vendor) when making
decisions to purchase from an on- line store.
Many online consumers abandon online shopping carts before completing
the transaction. This is a special problem for ecommerce vendors.
"Understanding the E-Consumer - A Behavioral Approach to E-Market
Segmentation." Shibo Li and Patrali Chatterjee. February 16, 2005
Excerpt from a rather lengthy paper:
Shopping Cart Abandonment Online vs. Offline:
"The key to investigating shopping cart abandonment online involves
understanding the differences between online and offline shopping
activity and the role virtual shopping carts play in online stores.
Offline shopping activity involves significantly higher tangible and
psychological costs (time, transportation costs etc.) than online
shopping activity (Moe and Fader 2003). Information search,
alternative evaluation and decision-making precedes most offline
shopping activity since there are limited returns to multiple store
trips and consumers are more likely to seek closure to a purchase
decision. Very few customers leave stores with no purchases, except
for durable, complex or high-cost purchases where consumers may make
multiple store trips while deliberating on a purchase decision (Putsis
and Srinivasan 1994). The relatively negligible costs of undertaking
online shopping activity and information-rich environment at most
online stores makes information gathering an integral part of the
online shopping process. Online shopping activity even in the case of
frequently purchased goods parallels the search and deliberation
activity that is typically observed for offline durable purchases.
Hence, shopping cart abandonment online will always be higher than
shopping cart abandonment in bricks and mortar stores."
"Further, the role of shopping carts at online stores differs
significantly from their counterparts at bricks-and-mortar stores.
Virtual shopping carts are primarily used as external memory aids to
"bookmark" products that could be lost while browsing other pages or
bought on future visits - similar to "wishlist" feature. Research on
consumer decision-making in information-rich environments like the WWW
suggests that consumers use a two-stage decision process to simplify
their product choice task (Haubl and Trifts 2000). In the first stage
consumers screen alternatives to create consideration sets of fewer
items in order to reduce cognitive load and effort (Bettman 1979). In
the choice stage, consumers use more effortful compensatory strategies
to evaluate alternatives in the consideration set to make their
"Items in virtual shopping carts represent the first-stage process,
i.e., consideration set or items consumers? are interested in
considering in the choice stage, like turning down or marking page in
a catalog, but not necessarily purchase on that visit. In contrast,
items are placed in traditional shopping carts after alternatives have
been considered, evaluated and a choice to purchase has been made at
the conclusion of the second stage choice process discussed in
literature. Further, abandoning an online shopping cart with the click
of a mouse on an external hyperlink to jump to another website or
close the browser represents the default option and is relatively
easier to do, than registering, providing financial information to
complete the purchase process.
** It is a lot more embarrassing to abandon a shopping cart at the
checkout lane in a bricks and mortar store. This might explain why
drop-off rates of 2-3% at offline stores may be very difficult to
achieve at online stores."
When it comes to the service industry, research shows that the
"loyalty to the service provider is higher when the service is chosen
online than offline."
Read "Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty in Online and Offline
Environments." Venkatesh Shankar, Amy K. Smith, Arvind Rangaswamy.
"In this paper, we address the following questions that are becoming
increasingly important to managers in service industries: How are the
levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty for the same service
different when chosen online versus offline? What are the unique
drivers of online customer satisfaction? How is the relationship
between customer satisfaction and loyalty in the online environment
different from that in the offline environment? We propose a
conceptual framework and develop hypotheses about the drivers of
customer satisfaction and loyalty, the relationship between
satisfaction and loyalty, and the role of the online medium. We test
the hypotheses through a simultaneous equation model using two data
sets of online and offline customers in the lodging industry."
"The results show that whereas the levels of customer satisfaction for
a service chosen online is the same as when it is chosen offline,
loyalty to the service provider is higher when the service is chosen
online than offline. Service encounter satisfaction for a service
chosen online is higher when information content at the web site is
deeper. In addition, the online medium also strengthens the
relationship between overall satisfaction and loyalty, and appears to
foster a reciprocal relationship between loyalty and
satisfaction, such that satisfaction increases loyalty, which in turn,
reinforces satisfaction. These results suggest that, contrary to
popular fears, the online medium provides an attractive opportunity
for service providers to acquire loyal customers. The results imply
that online service providers should not only invest in service
quality improvement initiatives, but also maintain web sites that
offer a good online
experience for their customers. They should also focus directly on
loyalty-building initiatives, such as frequent online user reward
Is impulse a factor?
"Interactive E-Commerce: Promoting Consumer Efficiency or
Impulsivity?" Junghyun Kim and Robert LaRose. JCMC 10 (1), Article 9,
"Previous research established that online shopping activity might be
caused by impulse as much as by rational thinking about the
conveniences of e-commerce. Interactive features of ecommerce sites,
such as email alerts of special offers and "clickable" product arrays,
may stimulate unregulated buying activity by undermining consumer
self-regulation, but this connection has not been empirically
verified. In this study, structural equation modeling techniques were
used to model the relationship of interactive e-commerce features to
online buying activity with a sample of 174 college students.
Recreational shopping orientation predicted the usage of interactive
shopping features thought to promote unregulated purchases, increasing
deficient self-regulation, and leading to increased online buying
activity. Convenience shopping orientation had a direct impact on
buying activity, but it did not influence buying activity through the
usage of convenience shopping features. Convenience shopping
orientation also contributed to the usage of recreational shopping
features that promoted deficient self-regulation. Overall, the model
explained fifty percent of the variance in online buying activity."
Recent research shows that the internet has become a useful tool for
comparison shopping and users often click around various sites to view
and compare products, proceed to leave the site altogether, and then,
possibly, return days later to purchase a product.
See "Online Consumers Window Shop More than Impulse Buy." By Jack M. Germain
E-Commerce Times. 05/02/05
Also see "Majority of Online Shoppers Visit Aggregator Web Sites
First; Shopzilla Survey Reveals That 71% of Internet Shoppers Find
Better Value and More Special Offers Online Than Offline." Business
Wire, March 23, 2005
Now that consumers have both online and offline shopping choices,
brick and mortar stores are starting to serve dual purposes! For
example, when buying books, consumers head to online sites - while
using offline bookstores as dating venues!
Read "Love is in the Aisle; Shopzilla Survey Reveals That Offline
Bookstores are Becoming Dating Venues While Online Bookstores Are
Where People Buy." Business Wire, March 13, 2006.
Also see "Switching to Electronic Stores: Consumer Characteristics and
the Perception of Shopping Benefits," by Ruby Roy Dholakia and Outi
As you can see, the research focus concerning your question topic
varies considerably. However, I hope the studies I have compiled prove
difference in shopping behavior online vs offline
is impulse buying greater online?
consumer spending online vs offline
consumer behavior offline vs online
consumer shopping ecommerce vs traditional