While more shoppers are using the Web to find product information on furniture and household appliances, many are still reluctant to make online purchases without seeing products firsthand, according to PriceGrabber.com, a Los Angeles-based comparison shopping website.

Of nearly 2,000 consumers surveyed, half identified websites as their primary source for obtaining product information, while 81 percent said they consulted online shopping sites before buying furniture or appliances.

The study also found that online shopping was increasing overall, with 39 percent of respondents saying they expected to make purchases from Web-based retailers this year, up from 23 percent in a similar survey two years ago.

Rising gas prices may also be triggering more online consumer traffic. In a separate survey by ICongo, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based e-business developer, a third of consumers cited higher gas prices for choosing to shop online.

Despite the increase in online activity, many shoppers said they're still reluctant to buy products from Web-based retailers without seeing them firsthand. Over half of the shoppers surveyed by PriceGrabber said they needed to see a product before buying it, though 72 percent said they could be swayed by free home delivery and other online incentives.