Report: Variety of Access Methods Keys UK Internet Growth

Over 33 million people in the UK, or 60 percent of the region’s population, ventured online between April and June, according to a report released Monday by Jupiter MMXI.

The number of “heavy users” is also on the rise in UK, with over 11 million people accessing the Internet more than three times a week. However, it is the manner in which people of the UK are accessing the Web that could ultimately make the biggest difference for e-commerce in the region, the research firm said.

With Internet access through game consoles and TV set-top boxes seeing the most dramatic increase over the last quarter, and the expense of PCs remaining a barrier to many UK consumers, it could be the sheer variety of online platforms that has the biggest impact on the UK’s online growth.

“(All these) multiple access points will increase the amount of e-commerce that occurs,” Jupiter MMXI senior vice president of measurement Mari Kim Coleman told the E-Commerce Times. “Different people are using different channels; (the cost of PCs) will stay a barrier, but the other access points will allow the access to come into households.”

Still Dominant

In fact, despite the cost barrier, PCs remain far and away the dominant platform for buying online in the UK, Jupiter MMXI said.

According to Jupiter MMXI analyst Mark Mulligan, e-commerce via the PC is expected to reach 17 billion euros (nearly US$15 billion) by 2006, with TV set-top sales estimated at 79 million euros and wireless e-commerce sales at 4 million euros.

According to the report, the UK — which leads Europe with an online shopping penetration of 27 percent — is being significantly affected by the large number of smaller, niche service providers in the region.

Coleman said the variety of ISPs gives the UK’s smaller niche e-commerce areas an opportunity to evolve.

All Aboard

For example, Tesco, the UK’s largest online grocer, was able to increase the number of online grocery shoppers accessing its site by developing an ISP specifically targeting female shoppers, Coleman said.

“The introduction to the Internet is very much targeted to an e-commerce initiative,” said Coleman. “But the ISP needs to develop trust. Once trust is built, then the e-commerce will occur. That’s where these niche companies have the advantage, even though they won’t have the volume.”

Home Sweet Internet

According to the report, home is by far the most important access point for UK Internet access, with 61 percent of people using home as their base to log on, compared to 32 percent from work and the same proportion from a combination of venues — Internet cafes, libraries, friends’ houses and schools. (The figures include a duplication of people logging on from more than one source.)

However, due to the prohibitive costs of PCs, over 4 million people visit the homes of other people to access the Web, the report said.

In terms of the sites most visited by UK surfers, MSN.com came out on top, followed by Yahoo! and Microsoft.

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