As Internet Matures, So Does Its Users

First-time Internet users will be older, less affluent, and more feminine in 1999, according to market research from Inteco.

Inteco is not the first to discover this trend among Internet users, Intelliquest, ZD Market Intelligence, and the Pew Research Center have all come to similar conclusions in the past few months.

Inteco’s survey of more than 16,500 households conducted in December of 1998 showed that the number of households with Internet access grew exceptionally fast between April and December of 1998, reaching 37 percent of all US households. While upscale households continue to dominate the Internet (57 percent of Internet households report annual income of $50,000 or more), this segment is reaching saturation, meaning first-time users will soon be taking on a new look.

“Our research shows that growth among female users will outpace that of males,” said George Barto, an Inteco analyst. “Single female household comprise 30 percent of all households that expect to adopt Internet usage in 1999. They also represent almost three-quarters of all single households.”

Inteco’s research also found that middle and lower class households account for 55 percent of those who intend to become Internet users in the next 12 months. Other segments showing an upswing include households headed non-professionals or non-executives and households headed by a retiree.

“Internet growth is far from over,” Barto said. “There are still huge advances expected, in terms of numbers of users as well as numbers and types of services being offered to Internet users. All we’re saying is that Internet penetration among higher-income households is approaching saturation.”

As that happens, Barto said, new Internet users will be a diverse lot without online brand loyalties, making them a vital market for e-commerce merchants. Barto also said it is evident that Internet users are becomingly increasingly convinced of the Net’s advantages. Ninety-five percent of the Internet-using households surveyed at the end of 1998 told Inteco they plan on remaining Internet subscribers for the next year, up five percent from a year earlier.

The Pew Research Center found that 23 percent of those who have gone online in the previous year make less than $30,000 a year. As far as income is concerned, Intelliquest found that more than half (51 percent) of those planning to get Internet access are over age 35.

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