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Study: Women Top Online Shoppers

By Clare Saliba
Jan 2, 2002 12:37 PM PT

For the first time, the number of women who used the Internet for holiday shopping outpaced the number of men who did so, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Study: Women Top Online Shoppers

Of the 29 million online users who made purchases online during the just-completed holiday season, approximately 58 percent were women, up from 50 percent last year, said the report. Moreover, the study concluded that almost one-third of female Internet users bought gifts online this season, compared to 22 percent of men.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group found that the usage shift registered during the post-Thanksgiving buying period provides further evidence that women are becoming more comfortable with shopping online in general.

"For years, men dominated the online shopping universe," said the report. "That made sense because men were more likely to be early adopters of the Internet, to feel comfortable providing their credit card information online, and to feel there were advantages to the ease of purchasing goods online."

However, Pew concluded, over the past year women began to encroach on this male-dominated territory as they took to the Internet in greater numbers.

Bigger Picture

In addition to shifting the online retail landscape, the growing strength of the online female population is part of a "broader story" about the strides made by the e-commerce sector in recent months, said the report.

To this end, the study -- based on a survey of more than 2,000 adults with Internet access -- found that 29 million people purchased gifts online during the 2001 holiday season and said the average amount of money spent online was US$392 per person.

The figures represent a spike from the 20 million who did so last year, when then average amount spent was $330.

At the same time, the report noted, more respondents indicated they saved time and money this year by buying merchandise online and fewer had complaints about the potential hassles of conducting online transactions.

Daily Pattern

Breaking down the online shopping numbers for the 2001 holiday, Pew said that more than six million people made purchases over the Internet on a typical day, up from about five million in December 2000.

In all, roughly 26 percent of the online population, or 29 million users, bought gifts online in recent weeks, said the report. By comparison, about one-fifth of Internet users, or fewer than 20 million people, shopped online for presents during the same period in 2000.

Piecemeal Proposition

According to Pew, minorities and young Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 were responsible for some of the most dramatic increases in the online gift-buying population this time around.

Despite this uptick, the report still found that affluent users are among the most likely to buy holiday gifts online. For instance, about 39 percent of households earning more than $75,000 made purchases via the Web, while just 15 percent of those earning less than $30,000 did so.

Putting the overall numbers in perspective, Pew concluded that online shopping remained just one part of most users' gift buying experience, with only 19 percent of those who purchased from an online retailer reporting that they bought all or most of their presents on the Internet.

Instead, Internet users seem to view e-commerce spending as a piecemeal proposition, with almost half of those surveyed reporting to Pew that they bought only a few of their gifts online in recent weeks.

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