The economic downturn has more consumers turning to the Internet to find lower cost items and services, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life project. More consumers are also selling personal items online. Bargain hunting was among the main activities of so called online economic users, the 69 percent of all U.S. survey respondents and 88 percent of Internet users who have used the Internet for recession related purposes. More than two thirds have used the Internet to find the lowest price available for something they needed to buy.
However, the study found no notable difference among searches initiated by financially troubled households and those from economically stable households, or among different income levels. Younger online economic users between the ages of 18 and 29 were especially active in seeking low prices. In addition, 40 percent of users searched the Internet for cost savings coupons, with those most severely affected by the recession more likely to seek coupons. The study also found that women were more likely than men to search for coupons. Similarly, middle aged economic users were more likely than younger or older users to hunt for coupons online.
Consumers also turned to the Internet to get information on the cost of everyday purchases. Among online economic users, women were more likely than men, 33 percent versus 21 percent, to have searched for this information during the past year, and younger users were more likely than older users. A third, of parents searched for information on how to spend less on everyday items, compared with 24 percent of non parents.
The study also found that 23 percent have used auction sites or classified ad sites to sell personal items to raise money. However, there didn't appear to be any economic drivers for this activity, with the employed and unemployed equally likely to have used the Internet to sell goods during the recession. One fifth of respondents also said they have used the Internet to participate in online auctions. This compares with just seven percent in March 2000. Other recession related activities of online economic users in the past year included:
- 52 percent have used the Internet to help understand the nation's economic problems.
- 41 percent sought information about available jobs.
- 27 percent sought tips about ways to earn money or explore prospects for getting a second job.
"Internet users are on a dual quest in this recession," said Lee Rainie, director and co author of the report. "They are seeking highly practical advice about how to survive. And they are going online to gain understanding of what went wrong, and what policies might fix the economy."
The report, titled, "The Internet and the Recession," is based on a national phone survey of 2,253 adults aged 18 and older, and included 561 cell phone interviews.
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