Global e-commerce doubles as shoppers get more adventurous

Shoppers around the world are becoming a bit more adventurous and a lot more focused on buying what they're hunting for online, according to a Nielsen study.

Shoppers around the world are becoming a bit more adventurous and a lot more focused on buying what they're hunting for online, according to a new study.

The number of people who planned to shop online buying everything from toys to groceries to vacations this year has doubled since 2011, according to Nielsen's Global E-Commerce Survey.

"The lightning-fast pace of change in the digital landscape has ushered in a consumer mindset that is both adventurous and exploratory when it comes to online shopping," said John Burbank, Nielsen's president of strategic initiatives, in a statement. "Consumers everywhere want a good product at a good price, and the seemingly limitless options available in a virtual environment provide new opportunities for both merchants and consumers. The market for fast-moving consumer goods is no exception."

The study, which surveyed more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries between February and March, found that consumers plan to increasingly shop online this year, particularly focusing on durables and entertainment-related categories, such as e-books, concert tickets, sporting goods and toys.

Of those surveyed, 46% said they intend to shop online in the next six months for clothing, while 48% plan to buy airline tickets and 44% are looking to make hotel reservations.

"I think this is good news overall that we are increasingly shopping online," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "That says positive things about growing consumer trust and value delivered, but also about the technology, the economy and improved efficiencies in logistics and warehousing."

While it's no surprise that consumers have been increasingly buying items like electronic devices and books (paper and e-books) online in the past several years, the study shows that they're also branching out into buying different kinds of goods, such as groceries, online.

Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, reported that the online market for buying groceries and other consumable products, while not as strong as non-consumable categories, is starting to show growth.

Since 2011, global online purchase intentions for groceries rose 5 percentage points to hit 27% and baby supplies jumped 12 percentage points to 20%. The pet supply category doubled in two years, going from 9% in 2012 to 21% in 2014.

"What is interesting is the growth in groceries and pet supplies, the two areas exemplified as examples of excess in the Internet bubble," Moorhead said. "Groceries are promising because it shows two main challenges have been solved. First, there is more trust that the shopper will find the right fruits, vegetables, and meats. Secondly, improved economics through better distribution and warehousing and lower web costs make it more profitable to conduct this kind of business."

While the study also showed that computers -- whether desktops or laptops -- still are users' primary tool for online shopping, although mobile devices are coming on strong.

According to Nielsen, computers are the primary device for online browsing and buying among those surveyed in all regions of the world. Mobile devices are a close second for respondents in the Middle East/Africa region, with 55% of respondents there using devices for online shopping. That's 11 percentage points higher than the global average of 44%.

"The study shows the ascendancy of the mobile device as a primary device for e-commerce consumers around the globe," said Burbank. "The use of these devices introduces all sorts of questions for retailers and manufacturers alike. For instance, will consumers still make shopping trips -- buying a whole basket full of items at a time -- or will consumers shop throughout the day, one or two items at a time, shifting from retailer to retailer in the process? How will these potentially new shopping patterns impact age-old practices?"

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