Report: Bad Signs for UK E-tailers

Despite the fact that more people in the UK are shopping over the Internetthan ever before, a report released Tuesday by Which? Online and theUK Consumers’ Association reveals several potential warning signs forBritish e-tailers.

According to the report, 63 percent of British Internetusers venture online for less than five hours per week, and 2 percentof surfers said shopping was their favorite use of the Net.

“While the total number of shoppers has increased, the percentage of theInternet population who shop online has remained broadly the same,” saidPaul Kitchen, the author of the report and head of Which? Online.

In addition, the study found that over one third of the entire British population has no intention of ever going online, and one in 10 Internet users in the UK thinks that shopping online results in better customer service.

The study was published by Which? Online, a subsidiary of the Consumers’Association, an independent organization founded in 1957 that conductscomparative testing of consumer products and trends.

Leaving E-Mail Behind

Further signs of the UK’s apparent disinterest with the Internet came up in the area of e-mail usage. According to the report, 5 percent ofsurfers chose e-mail as their preferred means of communication, down from 14 percent in the 1999.

“The survey indicates that the public are beginning to reject newer methodsof communication,” Kitchen said. “Other methods of communication, such astext messaging via mobile phones, may offer a more convenient way of stayingin touch for some.”

In addition, 67 percent of the report’s respondents said they prefercommunicating in a face-to-face meeting, up dramatically from 39 percent in1999.

Branching Out

The news from the report was not all grim. Almost 8 million people in theUK have now shopped online, more than ever before. Thirteen percent of themhave now made a purchase from a product category other than books, CDs andsoftware.

Although books are still the most popular online purchase, the travel categoryfinished ahead of CDs and videos to move into second place.

Waiting for Old-Timers

In the long term, it is the length of UK user experience that will ultimatelymake the difference, the report said. According to Which? Online, the more a person shops, the less he or she worries about security issues.

More than half of non-shoppers hadonline security fears, compared to 28 percent of those who do shop online.

“As the UK user base becomes more experienced — 45 percent have now beenonline for more than two years — we’ll see an increase in time online perweek, the number of sites visited and number of online shoppingtransactions,” Kitchen said.


  • Just because something is technologically feasible does not necessarily mean consumers will grab it. Marketers need to address consumers’ concerns with “On Line” transactions to get wider acceptance of this technology AM ong the masses. Is the recent drop in consumers’ interest an aftereffect of the drop in software stock prices?

  • Are there are organisations (i.e. government) that are trying to educate the older population to utilise the internet, resulting in the possibilty of them purchasing online? Surely it is a blessing in disguise for the elderly and disabled, who will have difficulty in mobilisation.

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