The commercial use of the Internet among Americans continues to grow: 58% of US adults say they conduct research online about products and services, up from the 49% who said so in 2004, while roughly one-quarter (24%) have posted comments or reviews online about products they buy, according to a survey from Pew Research.

Moreover, the number of adults who conduct research online about products on any given day has climbed to 21%, up from 15% in September 2007. Since February 2004, the number of adults conducting research on any given day has more than doubled, up from 9%.

Among surveyed Internet users, 78% say they at least occasionally conduct product research and 32% report having posted online product comments.

Below, other findings from the 2010 Online Product Research Report, by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Who Is Researching Online?

Among Internet users who conduct research online for products and services, key demographic characteristics include the following:

  • Men (77%) and women (79%) conduct online product research at similar rates.
  • Online African-Americans (66%) conduct product research at significantly lower rates than online whites (81%) or Hispanics (76%).
  • Online adults age 65+ conduct less online product research (68%) than those age 30-49 (80%) and age 50-64 (81%).
  • Internet users in higher income brackets conduct more online research than those in lower income brackets.

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Posting Online Comments, Reviews

Among Internet users who post comments or reviews online about the product or services, there are only small differences by gender, race, and age in the likelihood of posting online product reviews:

  • Those with a college degree or higher (38%) are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less (27%) to post product reviews online.
  • Those in higher income brackets are more likely than those in lower income brackets to post product reviews.
  • English-speaking online adults are more inclined than Spanish-speaking online adults to post product comments online.
  • Fewer rural adults post product or service comments than suburban or urban adults.

Online Commercial Activity Trend

The increase in product and service research online coincides with a general trend in stepped-up use of the Internet for commercial activities. For example:

  • 52% of online adults say they have bought products such as books, music, toys, and clothing online, up from 36% who said so in May 2000.
  • 52% of online adults say they have made reservations online or bought travel services such airline tickets, hotel rooms, and rental cars, up from 22% in May 2000.

The sharing of products and service information also coincides with increased use of social networking sites: 46% of Americans say they use social sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, up from 5% who said so in February 2005.

About the data: Findings are based on a Pew Research survey of 3, 001 adults age 18+ via telephone, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, from August 9 to Sept. 13, 2010. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.   

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Most Americans Conduct Online Product Research

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