NPR/Marist Poll: Amazon is a colossus in a nation of shoppers A new poll from NPR/Marist reveals the online habits of American shoppers and one name stands out towers above all: Amazon.
NPR logo NPR/Marist Poll: Amazon is a colossus in a nation of shoppers

NPR/Marist Poll: Amazon is a colossus in a nation of shoppers

Close to two-thirds of Americans say they've bought something on Amazon, according to a new NPR/Marist poll. That's more than 90 percent of America's online shoppers. James Yang for NPR hide caption

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James Yang for NPR

Close to two-thirds of Americans say they've bought something on Amazon, according to a new NPR/Marist poll. That's more than 90 percent of America's online shoppers.

James Yang for NPR

Washington, D.C. – America is a nation of shoppers. Two-thirds of the world's largest economy depends on consumer spending.

The habits of American shoppers are changing profoundly as more of them log on to buy things online. With one click or a voice command, things arrive magically at their doorsteps.

One name towers above all when it comes to online shopping: Amazon. Almost all, or 92% of online shoppers have bought an item from Amazon, according to a new NPR/Marist Poll. Long gone are the days when people were afraid to give their credit card data online. Over two-thirds, or 69%, of Americans say they have purchased an item online.

In fact, they trust Amazon to protect their data – 67% of online shoppers trust the company to protect their privacy and personal information.

The poll surveyed 1,057 adults in the continental U.S. from April 25 – May 2, 2018, and was produced in partnership by NPR and The Marist Poll. All finding are attributable to NPR/Marist.

The full results are available HERE

More insight and analysis on the poll from NPR available HERE

Key Findings:

  • 69% or nearly seven in ten Americans say they have purchased an item online
  • 92% of online shoppers say they have bought an item through Amazon
  • 64% of online shoppers are Amazon Prime users
  • 90% of online shoppers prefer free shipping even if an item takes longer to arrive
  • 84% of online shoppers have purchased clothes or shoes from a digital retailer
  • 20% of Amazon shoppers who buy clothes or shoes online have done so at Amazon
  • 44% of online shoppers say Amazon is their first stop when making an online purchase
  • 88% like online shopping because of ability to shop day or night and ability to find a product easily
  • 36% of men, who have shopped online, purchased an item with a price tag of $1,000 or more, which is twice as many as women (18%) who did the same
  • 78% like online shopping because they don't have lines of people

"In just over two decades, Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos has created a formidable enterprise with enormous influence that brings to mind the likes of John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates," says Pallavi Gogoi, Chief Business Editor of NPR. "Bezos became the richest man in America by turning an online book store into a retail behemoth that wields enormous influence."

Amazon's influence on how America shops can't be overstated. The new poll finds that the store has become so synonymous with online shopping that many shoppers (44%) will go first to Amazon when they want to look for an item, using the site almost as a search engine.

"Amazon has become the Google of shoppers," says Barbara Carvalho, Director of the Marist Poll at the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Despite all this, interestingly enough, a majority of Americans who shop online (56%) still prefer to shop in a brick and mortar store.

So, why do people shop online? Convenience, time and product variety are some of the reasons.

Most online consumers say the ability to shop day or night (88%), the ease in which one can find the product for which they are looking (88%), saving time (84%), and the breadth of product choices (84%), are either major or minor factors in their online shopping habits.

Then there are shoppers (78%) who don't want to deal with long lines of people. And many are lured by the cheaper prices (76%) afforded by online shopping. Most online shoppers (90%) also prefer free shipping even if an item takes longer to arrive.

What do people buy online? The leading purchase of online shoppers is clothes or shoes (84%). It's also Amazon's Achilles heel, just about the only category it doesn't dominate. Among online clothes shoppers, only 18% say they usually purchase garments or shoes from Amazon.

In conducting the poll with Marist College, NPR sought to analyze the online shopping habits of the nation and understand where Americans shop, what attracts them to online shopping, what they buy and where they buy their stuff.

NPR will be examining the shifting nature of shopping in a series of stories this week.

Based on this NPR/Marist Poll, here is a picture of the adult American shopper:

Nation of shoppers:

Nearly seven in ten Americans (69%) say they have purchased an item online. This includes 43% of U.S. residents who say they are regular online shoppers, including those doing so daily (2%), at least once a week (16%), or at least once a month (25%).

Americans also like their stores:

Americans are online shoppers. But, that doesn't mean they are turned off by the in-store experience. In fact, a majority of Americans who shop online (56%) prefer to shop in a brick and mortar store. 37% of online shoppers are true to the digital experience and prefer to buy online.

Power of Amazon:

Amazon looms large in the behavior of online buyers. 63% of Americans say they have bought an item through Amazon. Among online shoppers, 92% have used Amazon. More than four in ten Americans, 44%, have used Amazon Prime which includes 30% who are personally a Prime member and an additional 14% who share someone else's membership. This means that nearly two in three online shoppers (64%) are either an Amazon Prime member (44%) or share someone else's Prime membership (20%).

In Amazon we trust:

Online shoppers also trust Amazon with their personal information. 67% of online consumers report having either a great deal (32%) or quite a lot of confidence (35%) in Amazon to protect their privacy and personal information. This contrasts with the overall perception of online retailers. A majority of online shoppers (52%) say they either don't have very much (38%) or have no confidence at all (14%) in most online retailers to keep consumers' personal data secure.

Google of online shoppers:

Given the degree of trust online shoppers place in Amazon, it follows that the plurality of online shoppers (44%) say Amazon is their first stop when making an online purchase. Fewer turn to a search engine such as Google (33%), the apps or websites of a specific store (10%), a specific brand online (6%), or an online marketplace such as eBay or Etsy (5%).

Computer, phone or tablet. Home assistant is emerging:

So, how do online shoppers access the digital marketplace? A majority (54%) say they do so most often with a desktop or laptop computer. But, that could change. 45% buy online from a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet including a majority (53%) of those under 45. Only 1% of online shoppers say they use a voice home assistant such as Google's Home, Amazon's Alexa, or Apple's Homepod most often to buy online. However, 18% of the overall American population own such a device, and 10% of online shoppers have used a voice home assistant to make a purchase at some point.

Motivating Factors

Speed:

Despite an appreciation of the in-store experience for the majority of online shoppers (56%) over digital retailers (37%), there are significant factors that motivate them to point and click for their purchases. When deciding whether to shop online instead of making an in store purchase, 39% of online shoppers cite the speed in which they need an item as the most important determining factor. The difficulty in getting to the store (23%) and the price of an item (23%) follow. Fewer online shoppers mention shipping rates (9%) or the availability of items (5%).

Convenience:

The convenience of online shopping weighs heavily in the decision to buy online. Here are some of the convenience factors they cite: the ability to shop day or night (88%, including 64% who cite this reason as a major factor), the ease in which one can find the product for which they are looking (88%, including 62% who cite this reason as a major factor), saving time (84%, including 61% who cite this reason as a major factor), and the breadth of product choices (84%, including 58% who cite this as a major factor) are either major or minor factors in their online shopping habits.

Hate standing in lines and dealing with people:

Online shoppers also value the lack of lines and people (78%), availability of product reviews by other shoppers (78%), and the cheaper prices (76%) afforded by online shopping. However, fewer online consumers consider these to be major factors (48%, 38%, and 44%, respectively) when deciding to take their business online.

Online reviews:

56% of those who shop virtually say the availability of recommendations by the online retailer is influential in their decision to make their purchase online. This includes 18% who consider it to be a major component in their decision.

Hurray for free shipping and free returns:

Most online shoppers (90%) prefer free shipping even if an item takes longer to arrive.

Nearly four in ten online shoppers (39%) say an online retailer's free return policy largely influences their decision to buy online. 37% report it influences their choice a little, and 24% say it does not impact their decision at all.

Who cares about brands when there's deals:

Brands aren't dead, but it likely requires greater effort to rise above the noise of so many product choices. 73% of online shoppers say they set out looking for a particular brand while nearly one in five (18%) are more likely to just be guided by a recommendation from the online retailer. Nearly half of online shoppers (48%) are more concerned with getting the best deal compared with 47% who are online to purchase a specific brand. Of note, online shoppers who regularly make purchases via Amazon are more likely to be concerned with getting a bargain (52%) than being brand loyal (43%).

Americans love clothes and shoes:

Clothes or shoes are the leading online purchase made by Americans (58%), including 84% of online shoppers. Electronics such as TV's, computers, speakers, or headphones (48%) is the second most mentioned category of items bought online by American adults including 69% of online shoppers who have made such a purchase. Vitamins or supplements (26%), pet food or supplies (19%), household basics such as batteries, toothpaste, or garbage bags (18%), pharmacy basics such as over-the-counter medicines or lotion (14%), non-perishable groceries (12%), and prescription drugs or health products such as contact lenses (12%) round out the list among Americans.

But Amazon isn't where they buy it:

The top purchase among Amazon shoppers is clothes or shoes (84%). However, among these shoppers, only 20% say they usually purchase garments or shoes from Amazon. 76% say they buy them from another retailer.

Priciest purchases online are for electronics and men are worst offenders:

Aside from cars, airline tickets, and tickets for concerts or sporting events, a plurality of online shoppers (37%), say the single most expensive item they have purchased online was an electronic device. Clothes and shoes follow (19%) among national online shoppers.

22% of online shoppers say that the most expensive item they have purchased was between $100 and just under $250. 21% report the merchandise was between $250 and just under $500. 18% recall the price range as between $500 to just under $1,000, and another 18% say the product's price was between $1,000 to just under $2,500. Nine percent of online shoppers have clicked their way through a purchase of an item that cost $2,500 or more. Interestingly, men (36%) are twice as likely as women (18%) to have purchased an item with a price tag of $1,000 or more.

Buyer's Remorse?

Most online shoppers are satisfied with their purchases. 91% of online shoppers nationally never (26%) or rarely (65%) return the purchases they make online. A similar proportion (89%) report they hardly ever (70%) or have never (19%) regretted an online purchase. And, most online shoppers do not make purchases with the expectation that they will return at least part of the order. 66% say they never have made such a purchase, and an additional 28% say the thought of ordering an item with the intent of returning it only rarely crosses their mind.

Among online shoppers who have returned an online purchase, a majority (55%) have, at some point, brought the item back to a brick and mortar store. 56% of national online shoppers also report they have kept an online purchase they wanted to return. What's the main reason digital consumers have kept an item they wanted to send back? Nearly six in ten (58%) say the return process was too much of a hassle. 20% say they missed the return window, and 14% cite the high cost of returning the item. Eight percent mention another reason.

60% of online shoppers who ended up with an item they wanted to return have just held onto it. 26% have given the merchandise away, and 7% have simply thrown the item out. The same proportion (7%) have resold it. Online consumers though are not big on returning a product they have used or worn. 74% say they have never done so, and 24% report they have rarely done so.

Online grocery shopping doesn't cut it yet:

Most online shoppers (88%) have never bought fresh groceries online. And, the most cited reason given by online shoppers who do not choose this purchasing option is they prefer the in-store experience (49%). 21% are not interested in buying their fresh groceries online, and 14% say it never occurred to them. Six percent report the option is not available in their area, 5% report someone else buys their groceries for them, and 4% say it is too expensive.

In general, 10% of Americans have used a fresh grocery delivery service. When it comes to their preferred delivery service, Americans who use such a service stay local. A majority of these residents (53%) turn to a local market or service. More than one in ten delivery service customers say they use Amazon Fresh (15%), Instacart (15%), FreshDirect (14%), Walmart Grocery (13%), or Peapod (12%).

Subscription for meals and other services still small:


Meal kit subscription services such as Blue Apron or HelloFresh are not commonplace among Americans. 97% of Americans say they are not subscribed to this type of service compared with 2% who are. Americans also are not clamoring for box services such as Birch Box or Stitch Fix. 97% of U.S. residents report they have yet to subscribe to these services, and 3% have.

Contact

Ben Fishel, NPR Media Relations
Email: mediarelations (at) npr.org