Report: 85 Percent of Net Surfers Shop Online

Eighty-five percent of Internet users are also Internet shoppers, according to a new survey, “The Interactive Consumer: Charting the Online Shopping Revolution,” commissioned by Parade Magazine.

New data from Forrester Research also shows that Americans are moving from surfing the Web to shopping online at a faster pace than ever before.

“In 1999, only 13 percent of those online for less than six months had purchased online. Twenty-four percent of this year’s inductees have bought something in the past three months,” said Patrick Callinan, analyst at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research.

Baby Boomers Catch Up

The Parade Magazine survey, conducted by Greenfield Online, debunks the myth that the average online shopper is a young, tech-savvy male. In reality, most online shopping is done by baby boomers aged 35 to 54, with the average shopper being 42 years of age. Some 55 percent of shoppers are male, but according to the survey, the gender gap is narrowing at a rapid rate.

“Clearly, the Web is going mainstream, fast,” according to Lamar Graham, Parade Magazine’s technology editor. “The people who are spending the most money online are the same people who are spending the most money offline: baby boomers, solidly middle-class people in their 30s and 40s. Middle America is driving e-commerce, not some digital elite.”

Forrester predicts that by 2001, more than one-half of U.S. households will be online, more than one-third will have purchased online, and 10 percent will have banked or invested online.

Spending Online

The Parade survey found that 78 percent of online shoppers made their first purchase within the last two years; more than half made five or more purchases within the last six months; four out of 10 have made purchases from five or more Web sites; and 34 percent have spent $500 (US$) or more online during the past six months.

Survey respondents cited a variety of reasons for shopping online, including the ability to shop during off-hours, saving time, avoiding trips to the store, being able to buy from non-local merchants, better prices, shopping without salesperson pressure and easier comparison shopping.

Sixty-one percent of online shoppers feel the Internet is safe and secure, the survey said.

What is keeping the remaining Internet users from making an online purchase? The survey found that 54 percent of non-shoppers prefer to see an item before buying it. More than 50 percent said they do not want to release personal information and 47 percent stated concerns about safety.

Drawing Shoppers

Based on the research, Parade found that 67 percent of Internet shoppers responded to online banner ads and 65 percent paid attention to online links.

Advertising on the television and in print was also cited as an effective marketing device. The survey showed that 56 percent of respondents visited a site after seeing a network television ad and 55 percent visited after seeing a Web ad in a magazine.

Digital Divide Persists

Despite the increasing acceptance of personal computers and the Internet, Forrester says that the so-called digital divide persists, with almost 20 percent of households — typically those with lower incomes and less education — currently without a computer.

Survey respondents representing 55 percent of online households without a computer said that they do not need one, and 16 percent have not made a PC purchase because they believe computers are too expensive.

As personal computer purchases slow down, Forrester predicts that the growth of online households will emerge from two other sources — technology outside the home and online devices, or “Internet appliances.”

As more and more households become wired, PC ownership is becoming a less effective predictor of technology adoption, according to Forrester. Consumer purchases of broadband equipment, digital TV, Web TV, digital video cameras, and PDAs serve as better indicators in predicting how consumers plan to utilize technology and the Internet in the future.

Living Online

Even though e-commerce is experiencing rapid growth, Forrester says that activities such as e-mail and Internet research remain two to four times more common than online shopping. Additionally, users who have longer experience online are less likely to use the Internet to chat or play games than newcomers to the Net.

“Prophets of doom have found their 15 minutes of fame proclaiming that the Internet destroys community, literacy, self-esteem, and families,” added Forrester’s Patrick Callinan. “An objective analysis of age, media consumption, personality, and lifestyle revealed that on average, online Americans are more extroverted and have a stronger self-perception than do their offline counterparts.”

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