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More than half (53%) of online Americans say the recession is causing them to spend more time on the internet, where they are increasingly researching purchases to suppress impulse buying and shopping for deals that do not include shipping fees or sales tax, according to the latest Consumer Behavior Report from PriceGrabber.com.

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Increased time on the internet is helping consumers pass the time in more cost effective ways, the survey found. In terms of the allocation of increased time spent online , the largest percentage (40%) of consumers say they are spending more time comparing prices.? Other activities that have seen increases:

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  • 32% say they are spending more time during the recession reading news and information.
  • 26% are spending more time searching for coupons.
  • 26% are spending more time shopping online.
  • 17% are spending more time job hunting.
  • 15% are spending more time on social networks.

In the March 2009 survey, 50% of online consumers indicated that they have made recent efforts to cut back spending because of the weakening US economy. This represents a decrease from a similar survey conducted in October 2008, when 59% of all consumers surveyed answered the same question affirmatively. However, PriceGrabber said that while some consumers are less concerned about cutting back, the majority of consumers remain focused on spending smarter online.

Additional survey highlights:

  • Researching purchases and comparing prices online remains important to online consumers. Some 91% of online consumers are more confident about their product purchases after researching online, and 91% feel reassured that they’re getting the best deal after they compare prices.

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  • Consumers plan to implement recession savings strategies permanently. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers have implemented savings strategies and plan to continue to use them once the economy recovers.

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  • Online consumers are still purchasing big-ticket items when the price is right. In the past few months, 53% of online consumers say they have, or plan to, take advantage of aggressive sales on big-ticket items relating to one or more of the following categories: Electronics (30%), home improvement (20%), kitchen (12%), furniture (12%), outdoor equipment (8%), and laundry (7%), including washing machines and dryers.
  • Online consumers use the internet to find deals. Some 75% percent of online consumers look to purchase from merchants that do not charge sales tax or offer free-shipping. Another 37% of online consumers use the internet to purchase products because it helps them avoid impulse purchases.
  • Mindsets have changed from ‘cutting back’ to ‘spending cautiously.’ The survey found that online consumers’ efforts to cut back have reached a plateau, possibly because they have implemented savings strategies and reassessed their budgets
  • Changes in the White House modestly impact consumer confidence. When asked whether the outcome of the US presidential election impacted their outlook on the economy, 35% of consumers indicate that they feel more confident about the economy, 43% say it has not changed their outlook, and 22% feel less confident.
  • Steep job losses dampen consumer confidence. Nearly one in 10 online consumers say they have lost or will likely lose their job.
  • Credit card holders focus to improve their financial situation. Some 62% of online consumers have credit card debt, 32% have no debt and 6% don’t have a credit card. Of those 62% with debt, 41% say it has decreased as a result of their credit card habits in this economic downturn. Of those 62% who have credit-card debt, 37% are making a concerted effort to pay it off.
  • Consumers think it will take two-to-three years to resume spending. More than one-third (34%) of online consumers believe it will take another two years before the economy improves enough to be able to resume the level of retail spending they had prior to the recession, while 37% think it will take three years or more, and 29% believe it will take a year or less.

About the survey: Results are based on a survey of 4,239 online consumers conducted from Feb. 10, 2009, to March 9, 2009. PriceGrabber.com will continue to track online shopping trends and shifts in consumer behavior over the next three quarters. The entire Consumer Behavior Report (pdf) includes the full report on Economic Climate Driving Changes to Consumer Spending.

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