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But in the intervening years that figure has increased nearly fourfold: And in an era of widespread social media use and smartphone access, many Americans are incorporating these devices and platforms into their purchasing behaviors. A substantial majority of Americans are online shoppers, but for most this behavior is a relatively infrequent occurrence. And while each of these online shopping behaviors are relatively common across a wide range of demographic groups, younger adults in particular are especially likely to utilize cellphones and social media platforms to engage in commercial activity.

Despite the large share of Americans who engage in online shopping and the potential conveniences that come with buying online, a majority of online shoppers indicate that — all things being equal — they actually prefer to do their shopping in physical stores. As might be expected, the most dedicated online shoppers tend to express a relatively pronounced preference for shopping online as opposed to shopping in physical stores.

But even as many online shoppers express preferences for physical stores in the abstract, their ultimate decision of where to buy something often comes down to price. Users who frequently shop online are substantially more likely to say that they would typically choose to make purchases by simply buying online without visiting stores: The ability to buy online — without having to make a trip to the store — ranks as the least important factor: Regardless of their demographic characteristics, when buying something for the first time most Americans assign greater importance to being able to look at or try the product in person than they do to being able to buy online without making a trip to the store.

However, frequent online shoppers are one of the few groups who place more importance on being able to buy online. Today cellphone ownership is nearly ubiquitous, and roughly two-thirds of Americans have smartphones. And as the reach of these mobile devices have expanded, many consumers are using them to augment and assist with their physical and in-person purchasing experiences.

Americans are incorporating a wide range of digital tools and platforms into their purchasing decisions and buying habits, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.

The survey finds that roughly eight-in-ten Americans are now online shoppers: In other words, today nearly as many Americans have made purchases directly through social media platforms as had engaged in any type of online purchasing behavior 16 years ago.

But even as a sizeable majority of Americans have joined the world of e-commerce, many still appreciate the benefits of brick-and-mortar stores. Of course, all things are often not equal — and a substantial share of the public says that price is often a far more important consideration than whether their purchases happen online or in physical stores.

The survey also illustrates the extent to which Americans are turning toward the collective wisdom of online reviews and ratings when making purchasing decisions. But even as the public relies heavily on online reviews when making purchases, many Americans express concerns over whether or not these reviews can be trusted.

Finally, this survey documents a pronounced shift in how Americans engage with one of the oldest elements of the modern economy: Nonwhites, low-income Americans and those 50 and older are especially likely to rely on cash as a payment method.

Among the other findings of this national survey of 4, U.

1. Online shopping and purchasing preferences

Publications May 19, About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.

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As noted above, a majority of Americans under the age of 50 have used cellphones to purchase something online — and this group is also especially likely to utilize their cellphones while making in-store purchasing decisions. By Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson.

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