Affluent consumers in the US were early Internet adopters, so new data showing this group’s continuing fondness for researching purchases online are no surprise. What should get marketers’ attention is that affluent consumers not only overwhelmingly research consumer electronics purchases on the Internet, but that they use several means to do so, according to an October 2006 study by BIGresearch and Home Electronics Journal.

While the study found that 93% of US affluent consumers research upcoming consumer electronics purchases, it also found that over 62% used both product Web sites and search engines to do so. Another 27.5% used e-mail newsletters as part of their research process.

The study also found that more than half of US affluent consumers plan to make computer purchases online. Besides underscoring the ongoing merit of Dell’s online direct sales model, this finding suggests that PC makers should not shy away from carrying high-end models online. Although it may seem odd to the average PC buyer to consider buying a $5,000-plus Alienware or similar luxe model without seeing it first, affluent consumers’ general Web expertise makes this type of sale more natural.

None of this will come as news to those selling computer products. In fact, "computing products" was the second-largest category of online advertisers over the past two years, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, computing products advertising as a share of total online spending has been dropping since 2003, from 20% of all online advertising that year to 18% in 2004. eMarketer expects the category to account for about 15% of all online advertising in 2005, increasing to 16% in 2007, to reach $2.8 billion.