While women now comprise 49 percent of online users, they still lag behind men in online shopping, according to the latest American Internet User Survey published by customer relationship management firm Cyber Dialogue.
Whereas 68 percent of men searched for products online in 1999 and 43 percent made purchases, only 54 percent of women looked for products online and only 28 percent made purchases, according to the study, which has measured online purchasing behavior since 1995 and sampled 1,000 online users for the study.
Many analysts explain that the online shopping disparity between men and women is due to women being later adopters of the Internet, and expect the gap to narrow with time. However, Cyber Dialogue analyst Idil Miriam Cakim told the E-Commerce Times that this latest research debunks that notion.
Instead, Cakim said that the research shows that women simply may not like online shopping as much as men do and, in particular, are far more concerned than men about the security of shopping online.
Growth In Male Purchases Matches Female Purchasing
Since 1997, according to the study, the percentage of men purchasing products online has grown from 31 percent to 43 percent of men purchasing online, while the number of women purchasing online has increased from 20 percent of women in 1997 to 28 percent in 1999. If online experience were the deciding factor holding back women online shoppers, Cakim said that the percentage of women purchasing would be increasing at a much faster rate.
Security Key Issue
Security concerns are more important than experience in determining why women are not shopping online as much as men, Cakim claimed. She said that the study showed 65 percent of women versus 57 percent of men believe it is too easy to have a credit card stolen online. Cakim added that nearly 43 percent of the women surveyed said they believe the Internet presents a serious threat to their personal privacy, and 74 percent believe that the Net needs more regulation.
Nearly 90 percent of online women say that guaranteed transaction security influences their repeat visits to online shopping sites in a positive manner, according to the survey, while 67 percent of online women report that published privacy policies encourage them to return to online shopping sites.
“E-commerce marketers are eager to target women because they traditionally make the majority of household purchase decisions,” states Cakim. “Yet based on their online shopping habits, women are more reluctant than men to seek product information or place orders online.”
She said that her research showed that among the 24 million online women who have not purchased online, 40 percent state that they are concerned about the security of the information they give on sites.
Cakim added that security concerns are particularly related to the amount that women spend online. Online women shoppers who say they are not concerned about security purchased an average of $830 online in 1999 versus $459 in purchases for women who say they do have such concerns.
Social Experience Of Shopping
Security alone, however, is not enough to explain the observed difference between men and women shoppers. “The social experience of shopping is also a factor,” she said. “Women enjoy shopping and browsing whereas men see it as an intrusion. As a result, women are not as likely as men to click and buy something. They are more likely to want to see it and touch it first.”
According to research conducted by market research firm Yankelovich, 65 percent of U.S. adult women make time to browse and shop versus 35 percent of men. In addition, 70 percent of men say they try to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible versus only 43 percent of women.
A Guy Thing?
Based on these factors, it appears that women may not like shopping online as much as men, even if all other factors are equal, including security concerns and experience. Even if this notion is untrue, it is clear that there is a difference between what women and men are buying online.
Some of the purchasing differences are obvious. For example, the Cyber Dialogue study showed that women purchased more flowers, cards, and health/beauty products online than men, and were neck and neck as a percentage with men in buying toys. Men, in contrast, were way ahead in purchasing cars, computer hardware and consumer electronics.
Other differences are not as easy to explain. Women and men purchased clothing in equal percentages, according to the study, while men led in areas such as books, travel, music and arts and crafts.