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New Study Probes Psychology of Online Buyers

Are you an Adventurous Explorer, a Suspicious Learner or a Technology Muddler? Researchers at Brigham Young University now say it is more important for online marketers to categorize you in those terms than by age, gender or other traditional demographic measures. The BYU team surveyed 4,000 web users and divided them into eight different archetypes based on the participants' attitudes toward online shopping. "In this study we track not only the actual amount of online purchasing people do, we profile individuals using a broad variety of computer literacy and lifestyle variables directed at understanding the psychology of online shopping," researcher Scott Smith says.

Among those surveyed, 11.1 percent turned out to be Shopping Lovers, the most desirable bunch for retailers because they enjoy shopping online, do it often and encourage others to shop online too. Other good target groups for increasing sales included Adventurous Explorers (8.9 percent), who enjoy searching the web and consider online shopping fun; Suspicious Learners (9.6 percent), who would likely embrace online shopping given more computer training; and Fearful Browsers (10.7 percent), who might also welcome the practice if retailers could allay their concerns over credit card security, shipping costs and buying merchandise without first seeing it.

Whom should the retailers avoid? Some 19.6 percent of the subjects surveyed were Technology Muddlers¿folks who are not very computer savvy and spend little time online. Business Users (12.4 percent), though computer literate, viewed the Internet as a business tool; they didn't browse and didn't shop. Shopping Avoiders (15.6 percent) had good incomes, but didn't like to wait for purchases to arrive and wanted to see their goods in person. And last, Fun Seekers (12.1 percent) didn't have much money, nor did they spend it online.

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