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Blackwell Science, LtdOxford, UKJCSInternational Journal of Consumer Studies0309-3891Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 200327Original Article Comparing online and non-online

S.L. Lokken

et al.

Comparing online and non-online shoppers

Sheri L. Lokken, Ginger Wigington Cross, Linda K. Halbert, Gail Lindsey, Christy Derby and Carla Stanford

School of Human Sciences, Mississippi State University, MS, USA


A web-based survey was completed by 130 faculty and staff from a university located in the south-eastern United States. The purposes of this study were to investigate: (a) consumer characteristics related to online shopping; (b) benefits of online shopping as perceived by online shoppers; and (c) concerns about online shopping as perceived by non-online shoppers. Responses were analysed using SPSS for tests of chi-square. Findings suggest that the differences between online shoppers and non-online shoppers corre- spond with Rogers’ 1 categories of adopters, and that the educational needs of consumers also differ based on their previous experience with online shopping.

Keywords E-commerce , consumer empowerment , web- based survey .


The Internet has changed the way in which consumers search for information about products and services . Online shopping has offered new opportunities to con- sumers, but also has posed new threats . Consumers are continuingtoadapttothisnewtechnologyathighrates . It is projected that Internet access will reach 75% of all US households by 2005 and 90% of US households by 2010. 2 These rates are slower than predicted due in part to the declining US economy . Currently, adoption rates are increasing at much more rapid rates in European countries. 3 The purpose of this study was threefold: (a) to deter - mine which consumer characteristics are related to onlineshopping; (b)toinvestigatethebenefi tsofonline shopping as perceived by online shoppers; and (c) to examine the concerns that non-online shoppers have

Correspondence Sheri L. Lokken, School of Human Sciences, PO Box 9745, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA. E-mail: slokken@humansci.msstate.edu

about online shopping . Five university students and a family and consumer sciences researcher conducted a web-based survey to answer these questions .The results of this study will help consumer science professionals and consumer educators to understand trends in con- sumer buying behaviour over the Internet and target


sumer groups better .


US online retail sales experienced substantial changes in the fi rst few years of the twenty-fi rst century. Some online retailers went out of business , while others real- ized that marketing their products via the World Wide Web was a necessity . According to the National Retail

Federation, thenumberofUSretailerswithcommercial web sites increased 300% from 1996 to 1998, 4 and this number has continued to increase ,but at a slower rate . 5,6 The number of Internet shoppers has also increased, now estimated at 21 million. 7 According to a report by Ernst and Young, 8 74% of all US consumers purchased online in 2000. An online study of 39 000 consumers by eCommerce Pulse showed that 81.2% of adults with Internet access have purchased online . 9 Consumers are making more online purchases than ever before , and apparel sales surpassed books , music and videos for the first time in November/December 2001. 7 Ernst and Youngfoundthat, eventhoughconsumeracceptanceof online shopping is growing , customer dissatisfaction with pricing , shipping and product selection is also on the increase. 8 Even though some of the early projections that phys- ical retail stores would become obsolete 10 or that con- sumerswoulddothemajorityoftheirshoppingonline 11 have not been realized, the projections for online retail- ing continue to be positive . According to F orrester Research, 6% of all US retail sales will be conducted


to introduce online sites . 7

12 andEuropeanretailershavecontinued


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S.L. Lokken et al. Comparing online and non-online

According to a study by F orrester Research, 2 Euro- pean industries are predicted to experience rapid growth in online trade . Online sales comprised < 1% of total business trade in 2001, but are predicted to jump to 22% by 2006. Although the number of US Internet users has remained stable , the number of European users has increased by 14% in the fi rst half of 2002. 13

Online shoppers According to a study by Harris Interactive , 14 the num- ber of browsers (consumers who gather information online and purchase offl ine) has remained constant or declined, whereas the number of online buyers has increased steadily. The online shopping experience has become more positive for most. Previous studies have shown that higher amounts of Internet use (for non- shopping activities) are associated with an increased amount of Internet product purchases . 15 Studies have also shown that different products have different levels of customer acceptance via online shopping . 16 E- commerce may lower the initial search costs , but raises the product examination, payment and after -service costs.

Consumer compliments and concerns According to online-shopping consumers , some of the perceived advantages of shopping online include:

amount of product information, ease of use, speed and convenience . 14,17 Although Internet usage continues to increase, there are persistent concerns about the credi- bility and security of online transactions . 1821 According to a Forrester Research Group study , 22 scepticism about buying online included: (a) the need to touch, feel and try a product fi rsthand (48%); (b) the lack of compari- son shopping (35%); and (c) the desire to speak to a store clerk before purchasing (31%). Other concerns involved the facilitation of payment and refunds , reli- ability, customer service and ability to cancel orders . 23,24 Additionalconsumerconcernsaboutonlineshopping were found in the 1999 World Wide Internet Opinion Survey conducted by the Direct Marketing Associa- tion. 25 According to the survey , 42% of the 1494 partic- ipants cited security as their primary apprehension about online shopping . Also, 18% of the survey partic-

ipants cited privac y issues as a point of concern. Accord- ing to Sarah Andrews of the Electronic Privac y Information Center in Washington, DC, the US ‘lags behinds nearly every other country in online privac y protection for consumers’. 26

Theory of innovations Rogers’ theory of innovations 1 can be useful in explain- ing consumers’ adoption of the Internet for shopping . He has defi ned fi ve stages in the adoption process:

knowledge , persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation. Rogers 1 has also defi ned categories of adopters: innovators , early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards . According to Rogers , 1 innova- tors need to be able to afford the innovation and there- fore are typically consumers with higher incomes , higher occupational status and higher levels of educa- tion. They are also considered risk takers and tend to be inner directed in their decision making .Early adopt- ers share many of the characteristics of innovators , but are more integrated into their social groups than inno- vators.The early majority usually enter the market after being infl uenced by an early adopter whom they know and respect. Late majority adopters tend to be lower income and older . They may be slower to adopt new innovations because of fi nancial constraints or the fact that they are not directly infl uenced by others in their social group. Laggards enter the market after the inno- vation has been well accepted and when few risks are present.

Research questions

For the purposes of this project, the researchers inves- tigated the Internet as an instrument of commerce from the consumer’ s perspective. The following research questions were asked: (1) What consumer characteris- tics are different between online shoppers (Rogers’ 1 innovators ,early adopters and early majority) and non- online shoppers (Rogers’ 1 late majority, laggards)? (2) What are the benefi ts of online shopping as perceived by online shoppers? (3) What are the perceived risks of online shopping as perceived by non-online shoppers? For this study,online shoppers were defi ned as consum- ers who had made at least one purchase online . Non- online shoppers may have searched for product or

© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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Comparing online and non-online S.L. Lokken et al.

service information online , but had never made a purchase.



The population for this study included the faculty and staff,with E-mail addresses ,of a middle-sized university located in a rural town in the south-eastern region of the United States . This population was chosen because the researchers thought that the participants would be a good representation of online shoppers (i.e . working parents with higher income and educational levels than the general public). This population was also chosen because of resource constraints of this project (i.e . time and money), but may be generalizable to similar con- sumers worldwide . Using an offi cial college directory of faculty and staff E-mail addresses , the researchers adopted a systematic sampling procedure for randomly selecting the partici- pants. The systematic sampling procedure was logisti- cally sounder than simple random sampling given the size of the population. 27 Using the systematic sampling approach, the researchers randomly selected 600 partic- ipants to participate in this descriptive study of Internet use as it relates to online shopping .


The researchers chose a web-based survey because it wasthemosteffi cientmethodofdatacollectionconsid- ering their time and money constraints . As this data collection method required participants to have E-mail and web access to complete the survey , it was expected that the sample would be more likely to be Internet shoppers than the general population. The non-online shoppers in this sample were also expected to have more experience in searching for product and service information online . Researchers thought that this sam- ple would be more helpful in answering the research questions than consumers without Internet access . This study was approved by the university’ s Institu- tional Review Board for the Protection of Human Sub- jects (IRB). An E-mail cover letter was designed, which briefly explained the purpose of the study , directed the

participants to a web page that contained the online survey and assured them of their anonymity . The cover letter served as the informed consent required by the IRB. Participants were informed that the web page would be posted for 7 days. The E-mailed letters were senttothefacultyandstaffwhowereselectedrandomly from the college directory via the systematic sampling procedure. The participants were given 7 days to com- plete the survey and submit it to the researchers elec- tronically. After the 7-day period, the survey web page was deactivated.


The survey included 16 general questions that all par - ticipants were asked to answer .These answers provided demographic information as well as information about general online purchasing experiences . After the initial 16questionswereanswered, thoseparticipantswhohad made purchases via the Internet (online shoppers) were asked to complete a set of nine additional questions regarding their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their purchasing experience . Those who had never made an online purchase (non-online shoppers) were asked to complete four additional questions regarding their rea- sons for not making purchases via the Internet. After completing the survey , participants were thanked for their participation and informed that their answers would be held in the strictest confi dence and used for research purposes only .

Data analysis

A variety of demographic variables were analysed with

chi-square to determine differences between online shoppers and non-online shoppers (research question

1). Demographic variables investigated included gen- der, age, ethnicity, marital status, education level and income . Other variables examined included computer access, skill level, enjoyment of interaction while shop- ping, preference for convenience or privac y, enjoyment

of retail stores, previous credit card problems and pref-

erence for Internet browsing . Descriptive statistics such

as frequencies and means were used to answer research questions 2 and 3.


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© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd


Sample description

A response rate of 21.67% was achieved with 130 par - ticipants completing the survey within the 7-day time period (see Table 1 for details). As expected, the sample

S.L. Lokken et al. Comparing online and non-online

of university faculty and staff was a heterogeneous population, primarilyCaucasian(92%), married(80%), between the ages of 26 and 55 years (84%) and with high levels of income and education.

Characteristics related to online shopping

Table 1 Sample ( n = 130)

Gender , age, ethnicity, marital status, education level, income , computer access, skill level, enjoyment of inter - action while shopping , preference for convenience or privacy, enjoyment of retail stores , previous credit card problems and preference for Internet browsing were cross-tabulated with online shopping experience . Chi- square analyses indicated that age ( c 2 = 6.73, d.f. = 2, P £ 0.05), self-reported skill level ( c 2 = 22.74, d.f. = 2, P £ 0.01), retail store shopping enjoyment ( c 2 = 3.80, d.f. = 1, P £ 0.05) and preference for using the Internet for information search ( c 2 = 23.65, d.f. = 1, P £ 0.01) were signifi cantly different between the groups (see Table 2). Online shoppers were more likely to be younger, with 47.3% aged 35 years or younger . Non-











Age (years)













Over 55 Education High school graduate Some college College graduate Master’s degree Doctorate degree Professional degree Ethnicity Caucasian African–American Native American Other Marital status Single Married Divorced Widowed Income < $25 000 $25 000–49 999 $50 000–74 999 $75 000–99 999 $100 000 Computer competency Novice Intermediate Expert Shop online ‘Online shoppers’ ‘Non-online shoppers’













Table 2 Chi-square tests of characteristics related to online shopping





Online shopping





















Total (%)

c 2 (d.f.)





Age (years)


6.73 (2)*




and younger

38 (47.3)

9 (20.9)

47 (32.6)



20 (23.0)

12 (27.9)

32 (24.6)




and older

29 (33.3)

22 (51.2)

51 (39.2)



Skill level Novice Intermediate Expert Shopping at retail stores Enjoy Do not enjoy Information search Prefer Internet Prefer retail stores


22.74 (2)**



2 (2.3)

9 (21.4)

11 (8.6)



54 (62.8)

31 (73.8)

85 (66.4)



30 (34.9)

2 (4.8)

32 (25.0)


3.80 (1)*



54 (62.1)

34 (79.1)

88 (67.7)



33 (37.9)

9 (20.9)

42 (32.3)




23.65 (1)**


74 (86.0)

19 (45.2)

93 (72.7)



12 (14.0)

23 (54.8)

35 (27.3)



* P £ 0.05; ** P £ 0.01.


© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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Comparing online and non-online S.L. Lokken et al.

online shoppers were more likely to be older , with 51.2% aged 46 years and older. The majority (80.9%) of the younger consumers in this sample (aged 35 years or younger) had made at least one purchase on the Internet. The majority (66.4%) of consumers in this study clas- sified themselves at an ‘intermediate’ skill level with computers. Interestingly, only 2.3% of the online shop- pers classified themselves as ‘novice’ computer users , and only 4.8% on the non-online shoppers classifi ed themselves as ‘expert’ computer users. This finding sug- gests that consumers with lower computer skills are less likely to shop online , and consumers with expert com- puter skills are more likely to shop online . Chi-square results also indicated that a higher per - centage of online shoppers do not enjoy shopping at retail stores and a higher percentage of non-online shoppers do enjoy shopping at retail stores . The major - ity of online shoppers (86%) prefer to search for infor - mation about a purchase on the Internet, whereas 54.8%ofnon-onlineshoppersprefertosearchforinfor - mation about a purchase in a retail store .

Perceived benefits of online shopping

Those who had made at least one purchase online (online shoppers) were asked to identify the reasons why they use the web for purchasing products or ser - vices. ‘Reviews and recommendations from experts’ and ‘saving time’ were the two most frequently cited responses (Table 3). Convenience , other shoppers’ opinions , vendor information availability and lack of sales pressure were also selected frequently . Of the reported online shoppers ( n = 87), 88% indicated that they were very satisfi ed with the product(s) and/or ser - vice(s)thattheypurchasedonline .Seventy-twopercent of these consumers claimed that they would rather browse the Internet to research a product than go to a retail store to gather information about a product. Interestingly, 70% claimed that they felt convenience was more important to them than privac y.

Concerns about shopping online

Although 33% ( n = 43) of the survey sample indicated that they had never shopped online , 83% of these

Table 3 Online shopping advantages as perceived by online shoppers

n (%)

Reviews and recommendations from experts

18 (20.7)

Saving time

17 (19.5)


14 (16.1)

Access to opinions of others

12 (13.8)

Availability of information from vendors

10 (11.5)

No pressure from sales people

10 (11.5)

Better prices

6 (6.9)

n = 87.

Table 4 Online shopping disadvantages as perceived by non- online shoppers

n (%)

Security issues

27 (62.8)

Happy with local shopping

4 (9.3)

Don’t have Internet access at home

3 (7.0)

Lack of product demonstration

3 (7.0)

Lack of information about how to shop online

2 (4.7)

Privacy issues

2 (4.7)


2 (4.7)

n = 43.

non-online shoppers indicated that they had used the Internet to research various products that were later purchased offl ine. When asked what infl uenced their decision not to shop online , the majority of non-online shoppers (62.8%) indicated security issues , such as credit card safety (See Table 4). Non-online shoppers were also asked to rank several conditions on whether likelihood of shopping via the Internet would be increased. Each condition was ranked on a fi ve-point Likert-type scale from ‘1’ (very unlikely) to ‘5’ (very likely). Assurance of credit card security and lack of local product availability had the highest mean scores (Table 5).


The results of this study indicate that online shoppers are younger and have more self-reported computer


International Journal of Consumer Studies, 27 , 2, March 2003, pp126–133

© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

S.L. Lokken et al. Comparing online and non-online

Table 5 Conditions that would increase likelihood of shopping online





How likely would you be to use the Internet for purchase if:


Credit card security was insured You could not purchase the desired product locally You could search across different catalogues for the desired item The pictures and the descriptions of the items were better It took less time to download It was easier to use the web sites Delivery was quicker You understood how shopping online works You had access to the Internet at home




























skills than non-online shoppers . This supports online shoppers fi tting in Rogers’ 1 categories of innovators , early adopters and early majority and non-online shop- pers falling into Rogers’ categories of late majority and laggards. Online shoppers were also found to be less

likely to prefer shopping in retail stores and more likely to prefer searching for product information online , another innovative trait. Online shoppers revealed


ing product reviews , saving time and convenience . Credit card security was the main concern for non- online shoppers . Survey results indicated that, as the respondents’ sense of computer competenc y increased to the level of expert, the more likely they were to make purchases online . This suggests that computer -literate persons are more likely to feel competent in their choice of making purchases online than those who are less computer literate. Consumers who would rather browse the Internet or use it to search for product information are more likely to follow through and make an online purchase . This corresponds with previous research suggesting that most online shoppers begin by searching for product

information electronically . 14

The results from this study did not indicate a signifi -

cant relationship between gender and shopping experi- ence. Also, income and shopping experience had no

significant relationship . One may assume , as in the case of computer experience , that if income and computer literacy were highly correlated, persons of higher income level would be more likely to make purchases online .This,however ,was not the case .Fifty-six per cent of the respondents within the income range of $25 000 to $74 999 had made purchases online , whereas only

36% in the $75 000 to $100 000 range had done so . This

may be attributed to the age of higher level administra- tors in this income and occupational category .From the respondents who made less than $25 000, only 8% had shopped online .This finding could be attributed to lack of access to personal computers , the need to be more frugal in their shopping or simply shopping less for dis- cretionary items because of a tighter budget. Finally, online shopping and experiences with credit card fraud, enjoyment of retail shopping and attitude towards shopping had no signifi cant relationship . This suggests that more research is needed to determine cus- tomer incentives and deterrents to shopping online ,

specifically security and privac y issues, customer service, comparison shipping and the desire to see , feel and try

a product fi rsthand. This finding may also show that

traditional retail shopping will not be reduced or

replaced by online shopping in the future .

Some potential limitations are important to consider

in the interpretation of the results of this study . Perhaps

the primary limitation of this study was the over - representation of Caucasian (92%) and married (80%) participants in the sample . Similarly, 84% of the sample comprised persons 26–55 years of age.Additional infor - mation regarding the online shopping experiences of those ethnic , marital status and age range groups who were under -represented in the sample would be neces- sary to portray the university’ s faculty and staff accu- rately. A second limitation was the low return rate (21.67%) of the study survey . The use of E-mail as the vehicle for distribution of the surveys may have caused the low return rate . Using E-mail to distribute the survey also potentially biased the results , favouring consumers already using the Internet at a higher rate . E-mail is an inexpensive and simple way of distributing questionnaires, but requires caution in relating the results to all consumers . Although these concerns limit the overall generalizability of the results , the findings may be germane to those university faculty and staff

© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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Comparing online and non-online S.L. Lokken et al.

internationally who share similar characteristics to those identifi ed in this sample .


This research shows that there are differences between consumerswhoareonlineshoppersandconsumerswho have never used the Internet to shop , which support Rogers’ defi ned categories of adopters . 1 According to McGregor , 28 empowering the consumer is the ultimate goal of consumer education. When consumer science professionalsandconsumereducatorsdevelopcurricula for domestic consumers interacting in the electronic global market place , which is essential according to Goldsmith and McGregor , 29 they need to note the dif- ferent needs of online shoppers and non-online shop- pers.Online shoppers ,who tend to be more risk-taking , would benefi t from training in the possible dangers of online purchasing . Potential for consumer fraud has increased with the Internet (e .g. credit card security, privacy issues). Although it was not statistically signifi - cant, a higher percentage of online shoppers in this study were concerned with convenience than with privacy. The Internet can empower consumers and allows them the opportunity to make informed purchase deci- sions. Consumers who have never used the Internet for shopping , who tend to be risk averse , should be informed of some of the helpful features available to them. For example, online price comparison ser- vices (e.g. bottomdollar .com, consumerworld.org , mysimon.com, shopper.com) are an effi cient way for consumers to fi nd the lowest prices for goods with the click of a button. Helpful information can be shared among consumers using discussion forums and chat rooms.Consumers may also benefi t from knowledge of services such as grocery delivery and other online shop- ping conveniences such as 24-h access , gift registries and wish lists. Even though the sample in this study represents fac- ulty and staff from a university in the south-eastern USA, the results can be generalized broadly as the Internet has no geographical boundaries . Further research with a larger , more diverse population is needed to explain more fully the dynamics of online shopping; however , the findings of this study imply that

consumers can benefi t from using the Internet as a potential resource for their shopping needs .In addition to informing consumers about the opportunities that online shopping may present, it is essential that they are also educated in the potential risks involved in purchas- ing goods and services via the Internet.



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