A Powerful, Incorrect Stat: 97%

In the past two weeks I’ve seen this statistic cited in two press releases: “Nearly all consumers (97 percent) use online media when researching products or services in their local area.” It’s based on a BIA/Kelsey survey.

To be sure, it’s a powerful stat for marketers to use in slide decks and press releases. However it bothers me because it argues that only 3% of “consumers” are not displaying this behavior and nobody seems to question it. A more accurate statement might be something like “97% of Internet users . . .” Or better still: “97% of survey respondents . . .”

According to comScore the total US Internet audience is 218.5 million. The US Census Bureau says the total US population is 312.5 million. Accordingly, the Internet audience is about 70% of the total US population.

Even if 100% of online users — everybody — researched products and services before buying offline that would mean, at the absolute most, 70% of the total population — not 97%.

Cleverly you respond “consumers” is a smaller subset of the population. Indeed. One could argue a “consumer” is anyone who buys things and is 18 or older. However we need to use a broader definition because of comScore.

There are roughly 236 million adults (18 and over) in the US. If we include those over 12 the number rises to 262 million. The Internet audience that comScore monitors includes people over 12.

Using the 13+ definition of “consumer,” the total online population is 83% of the comparable US population. The very most “aggressive” statement that could be made then about “all consumers” is: “83% of all consumers use online media when researching . . . ”

That figure also overreaches. But it would be more accurate — and still powerful.

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3 Responses to “A Powerful, Incorrect Stat: 97%”

  1. Jeff Cohen says at

    I love detective work that is logical…well presented!

  2. Greg says at


  3. James Svoboda says at

    Nice catch Greg!

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