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10/03/2010 / Francesca Lyn

Shopping online

The following blog post is in response to “Effects of Internet Commerce on Social Trust” written by Diana C. Mutz in Public Opinion Quarterly (2009).

I must admit that I am one of those people, those last holdouts that still does not completely trust online ordering. Ebay still makes me nervous. My fears are not that I will not receive the item I purchases. Rather I am afraid someone will send me something defective and I will not be able to get my money back or the item replaced. Maybe I have trust issues?

For this short study I chose to ask my boyfriend, a friend from college, and a friend from high school. My boyfriend Garrett is a UF grad student. My college friend Liz is getting her Master’s degree in Education, also from UF. My high school friend Lisa was recently an English language instructor in Spain and is now back in the United States looking for a job.

I have had very little experience reading about research studies, let alone writing one. For my study I wrote six questions about online purchasing:

1. How often have you bought something online in the last two months?
All had made online purchases in the last two months. My boyfriend Garrett made the least with three purchases, Lisa made six, and Liz made fifteen.

2. In general, what do you buy most often online?
Garrett bought mostly books, Lisa bought electronics and clothes, and Liz bought clothes and piano sheet music.

3. What sites do you most often use to buy things online? Why do you use those sites?
All three participants cited Amazon. Lisa also mentioned Ebay. All cited ease of use and affordability being the main factors for choosing these sites. Liz mentioned also using Kohl’s online and Prima Music because of their good sales.

4. What advantages do you see come from shopping online?
Everyone mentioned the ease of comparing similar products. Lisa stated that she actually prefers shopping online as long as it was not something she needed right away.

5. How likely are you to make online purchases in the next two months?
Everyone said they were extremely likely to make more online purchases. Liz even mentioned she was going to buy something from Kohl’s online tomorrow because she had a sale code to redeem.

6. What do you not like about making an online purchase?
All mentioned that returning items were sometimes an issue. Garrett also mentioned waiting for the package to arrive. Liz mentioned that it was inconvenient to not be able to try clothes on.

I was pretty surprised that none of my participants cited that they disliked making purchases online because of any sort of trust factors. However, after reflecting on the type of brands they did choose to make purchasing on, I think that would be a huge factor worthy of further investigation.  Only one website mentioned was one I had never personally heard of.  A trustworthy brand is personified, we feel like we know Kohl’s, Amazon, or even Ebay. Also, maybe my questions were too subtle? If I had to do this type of study again I would maybe make a longer questionnaire and include some questions like:

– Would you purchase items online from a site you had never heard from before?

– How safe do you feel making online purchases?

– How safe do you feel making purchases not online?



Leave a Comment
  1. sadiecone10 / Oct 5 2010 12:09 AM

    I think you had good questions! The responses regarding what your participants didn’t like about online shopping were similar to my friend, Sara’s, response. She enjoys the convenience, however, she’s hesitant to purchase clothes online because she’s afraid they might not fit and it’s a hassle to return them. Your boyfriend didn’t seem to bring this up as a factor, but your friend Liz did. I’m wondering if this is a factor that is gender-specific, regarding the need to try on clothes? I agree with you that the personification of brands as “trustworthy” would be a very interesting topic to explore. Companies pay millions of dollars to market researchers and public relations people to make sure that their product appears that way. I wonder if they were asked about smaller, lesser known brand names, would they still have had no qualms about ordering online and trusting their credit card information to the online retailers?

  2. Sijia / Oct 6 2010 9:27 PM

    I agree with you that there is brand effect impacting us when we make online shopping decisions. Just as several classmates pointed out in our class discussion today that people who are used to online purchasing are not necessarily believe in individual sellers, maybe they just feel confident in an specific corporation or brand, like amazon, or Kohl’s. And I believe social trust and brand trust are different things, although the two may have indirect impact on each other.

  3. aflaten / Oct 7 2010 3:22 AM

    I’m pretty sure every researcher hates their own survey questions. It’s like a mandatory thing.

    I feel as though your survey findings along with all the talk of brand importance in the class, blogs, and comments are not coincidental. I can include myself in the list of those who will go on Amazon and buy something from Amazon itself, but ignore any of the “unknown” sellers. Why? Because I know if there’s a problem, I’ll have a much better chance of having it resolved with Amazon then I will with JoeCool1337.

    That big, scary line between the unknown “digital world” and the real world blurs somewhat with the addition of those big brand labels we all know and love. And it becomes even blurrier when you have places that forgo the real world entirely and establish themselves online like Amazon. With brick-and-mortar stores such as Barnes and Noble having trouble competing, perhaps this will become the norm.

    • Mindy McAdams / Oct 9 2010 3:09 PM

      I never considered using those other sellers on Amazon until one day I went searching for a book that turned out to be OUT OF PRINT. Wah! Then I discovered that I had all kinds of options among the other sellers, and in the end I had a good experience. For new books, the other sellers on Amazon are rarely a good buy — most charge too much for shipping.

      • francescalyn / Oct 9 2010 3:15 PM

        I found out about the other sellers on Amazon exactly the same way.

  4. paulacunniffe / Oct 7 2010 12:56 PM

    My 2 female respondents also disliked not being able to try clothes on and difficulty in returning items that you don’t like. I wonder if men shop online to the same extent women do? I love online shopping at stores that we don’t have in Gainesville, like Urban Outfitters.

    I think a lot of people have the same apprehension about eBay as you; but one of my respondents said he always checks the seller reviews before he buys from someone. And if you get a bad product, you can slate the seller in your review. I bought a refurbished camera on eBay. A few weeks later I got sand in the lens. The seller exchanged it for a new one and refunded my postage costs. You just have to be careful about who you buy from!

    • francescalyn / Oct 8 2010 1:33 PM

      I wondered that about clothing purchases as well. I think men’s sizes also vary less.

  5. Mindy McAdams / Oct 10 2010 5:49 PM

    Your questions were good, and they suited what you were asked to do. It’s great that after you had finished, you thought of other questions; that’s something that happens to professional researchers too. I like the idea of asking someone if they would try an unknown brand or site for online buying. I wonder if your people compare prices, or they just go straight to Amazon?

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