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The top consumer fears about online marketplaces are…

Fake products are a major concern for online marketplace shoppers.

Concerns over shopping on online marketplaces are widespread but may not always reflect reality.

According to a new survey of U.S. consumers from search engine provider Spokeo, virtually all (98%) respondents have at least one fear about shopping on online marketplaces. The study classifies "online marketplace" any platform where a peer-to-peer online transaction can occur, such as Craigslist and OfferUp as well as Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Shop and TikTok Shop.

Respondents ranked the top three anxiety-inducing online shopping scenarios as paying on sites that lacked secure encryption (22%), clicking on unsolicited offers via email or text (21%), and completing peer-to-peer transactions (17%).

Online marketplace fears outweigh experiences

When asked about their fears and experiences when shopping online marketplaces, respondents revealed their levels of concern are much higher than actual incident rates. 

Following are the top fears, with the percentage of respondents who said they have experienced them:

  • Receiving fake or incorrect product (55% fear, 15% experienced).
  • Seller misrepresenting item condition (51% fear, 21% experienced).
  • Seller disappearing after receiving payment (50% fear, 17% experienced).
  • Having payment info exposed/stolen (47% fear, 15% experienced).
  • Difficulties with returns/refunds (45%, 16% experienced).

Close to four-in-10 (38%) respondents have never had a negative experience related to shopping on an online marketplace. In addition, female and male respondents had the same top three fears, but higher percentages of women had fears than men:

  1. Buyers receiving a fake/incorrect product (51% of men vs. 58% of women).
  2. Sellers misrepresenting the item’s condition (47% of men vs. 55% of women).
  3. Sellers disappearing after receiving payment (45% of men vs. 55% of women).

Other findings

  • Roughly three-in-10 (29%) respondents are comfortable spending more than $100 on an online marketplace without first researching the seller.
  • More women than men take more safety precautions when shopping in online marketplaces.

[Read more: Survey: Consumers trust e-commerce, but have concerns]

The survey of over 1,088 U.S. residents aged 18 and up was conducted via Survey Monkey Audience for Spokeo on April 8, 2024.

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