The Internet plays an important role in how people conduct research for purchases, but it is just one among a variety of sources people use and usually not the key factor in final purchasing decisions. A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project tracks the decision-making processes for buying music, purchasing a cell phone, and buying or renting a home. Here are the top three sources used in product research for each of the three products.

For those who have bought music in the prior year:

  • 83 percent say they find out about music from the radio, the television or in a movie.
  • 64 percent say they find out about music from friends, family members, or co-workers.
  • 56 percent say they find out about music through various online tools, such as going to a band's or artist's Web site or streaming samples of songs to their computers.

Among those who have purchased a cell phone in the prior year:

  • 59 percent asked an expert or salesperson for advice 46 percent go to one or more cell phone stores.
  • 39 percent use the Internet.

For those who have rented or bought new housing in the prior year:

  • 49 percent use the Internet.
  • 49 percent look through ads in the newspaper.
  • 47 percent ask a real estate agent for advice.

Even though many buyers use the Internet in product research, relatively few say online information had a major impact on the product choice they eventually made. Only 7 percent of music buyers, 10 percent of cell phone buyers, and 11 percent of those who bought or rented a home in the prior year say that online information had a major impact on their decision.