When it comes to impulse buying, the Internet so far is nothing like the real world.

In a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation, nearly 80 percent of shoppers said that during the past year they had purchased an item they hadn't planned on buying while browsing in a bricks-and-mortar store. But fewer than a third of the shoppers said they'd done the same thing online.

The results seem to indicate that, for now, e-shoppers are directed shoppers--going online to look for the specific item they want.

Not coincidentally, the retail group found, men--who are less likely than women to buy on impulse--are 10 percent more likely than women to use the Internet for shopping.

And according to the survey, those who do shop online are overwhelmingly motivated by convenience rather than price or selection.

Checking The Impulse

In the past 12 months, have you purchased . . .

. . . a product online when you were shopping for something else?

No 69%

Yes 31%

. . . an item in a store when you were shopping for something else?

No 21%

Yes 78%

NOTE: Figures above are rounded.

Of those who use the Internet to shop, what are the most important reasons you do?

More convenient 55%

Wider selection 16.1%

Better prices 15.8%

Better customer service 1.1%

None of those 11.7%

SOURCE: Internet Shopping Survey, National Retail Federation; survey compiled from 1,037 phone interviews with U.S. adults Aug. 23-25 by Market Facts Inc.