Females Lead Online Growth Spurt

The number of Internet users in North America has now reached 92 million, according to a study released by CommerceNet and Nielsen Media Research. The study also revealed that, while the number of Internet users age 16 and older in the US and Canada increased 16 percent in the last nine months, the number of online consumers jumped 40 percent to 28 million during the same time period.

The increase in Internet adoption by consumers is being driven, for the first time, by women. The number of female consumers online jumped 80 percent in nine months, and has now passed the 10-million mark, according to Mark Resch, Executive VP of CommerceNet.

“More than two out of every five people in North America are now Internet users, and the Web is becoming an integral part of daily life,” Resch said. “With more than 30 percent of users being Internet consumers, we’re seeing a tidal wave of e-commerce in North America.”

The study found that women are the driving force in the growth of e-commerce, as the proportion of women among online buyers increased 9 percentage points, from 29 percent to 38 percent last summer.

“Men were undoubtedly the early adopters of Internet commerce, but women have recently emerged as a powerful buying force on the Web. The nine-point increase in the proportion of women purchasing via the Web in such a short period of time is substantial,” said Nielsen’s Jerome Samson. “It is especially important considering that the proportion of women among Internet buyers had been stagnant for nearly two years. Now women are active buyers in all the major product categories.”

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According to the study, women now represent 45 percent of the 9.2 million online book buyers, 38 percent of the 7.2 million CD/video buyers, 24 percent of the 5.4 million buyers of computer hardware, and 53 percent of the 4.5 million online buyers of clothing. In these top categories, the number of women making purchases more than doubled since last summer.

The study also revealed the importance of the Internet for shopping, defined as checking out and comparing the price and features of products on the Web, regardless of making an online purchase. According to the study, 55 million people, or 60 percent of the Internet population, have used the Web to shop, an increase of 15 percent since last summer. The increase is in line with the growth of the Internet population overall.

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Books (12.6 million shoppers), computers (12.4 million shoppers), clothing (11.6 million shoppers) and CDs and videos (11.4 million shoppers) top the list of items shopped for online, but they are all distant seconds to cars and car parts, with 18.2 million shoppers online as of April 1999.

“The Web is changing consumers’ shopping habits both at home and in the workplace,” said CommerceNet’s Loel McPhee. “Companies have made it easier to get product information and make purchases via the Web, and people are responding. To take full advantage of the Internet as a commercial vehicle going forward, companies must continue to shift their strategies to meet the needs of these new customers.”

The Nielsen/CommerceNet survey found that men and women tend to purchase the same types of products online, but women are more likely to shop for clothing and books, while men prefer car parts and computers. An earlier study by The Strategis Group came to a similar conclusion.

Other findings of the Nielsen/CommerceNet study include:

  • 46 percent of the 92 million Internet users in North America are women, compared to 43 percent two years ago
  • 41 percent of today’s 55 million Internet shoppers are women, compared to 36 percent over the last two years
  • Of the 28 million online purchasers, 9 million made them once a month, 1 million purchased once a week
  • 13 percent of online buyers made their first Internet purchase in the preceding month

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