Internet Purchase Feedback = Cranks And Fanbois

If you're like us here at HotHardware, you use the Internet for everything. But according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the one thing we're not doing much is letting the Internet make up our minds about what we want to buy. Those decisions seem to be more heavily and directly influenced by offline channels like "friends and sales personnel."

Only about 10 percent of real estate and cell phone buyers and 7 percent of music purchasers credit the Internet with having a major impact on their decision. And only a small portion — 22 percent of the music buyers and 12 percent of cell phone purchasers — ultimately bought their product over the Internet.

"People do cast their information nets widely when doing consumer research," Horrigan said. "At the end of the day, though, it's the offline nugget that has more influence."

And while many people look at recommendations from fellow consumers before buying, few bother to give back to the system by adding their own ratings or comments after a purchase.

Horrigan suggests that consumers are so eager to use what they have just bought, they leave a product research mode and simply forget — risking turning such forums into unreliable accounts by a vocal minority.

Hmm. Of course anyone that's been on the Internet much knows all about comment flamewars and "unreliable accounts by a vocal minority." But the Pew study sounds like its written by your typical AOL dialup user. Look at the HotHardware Forum. There are millions of Online destinations like that, where people congregate virtually in a real community. Has Pew even heard of FaceBook? Online is where your friends are, and where you met them, too.

But maybe this survey's correct. I'm trying to picture the last "salesman" I talked to that influenced my purchasing decision. I think he told me where the Plumbing aisle was in Home Depot. I did buy some plumbing, so perhaps he used his Jedi salesman mind trick on me after all. I'm still waiting for my friends to weigh in on what type of toilet seat I should have bought.