Gender Gap Impacts E-Commerce

Females have narrowed the “Internet Gender Gap” from 21 percent to only 8 percent in less than two years, according to a recent report, and the demographic change is impacting what type of goods are purchased online.

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According to the report “Internet User Trends: Year-End 1998,” by The Strategis Group, use of the Internet by adult females in the US rose from 16 percent in mid-1997 to 38 percent by the end of 1998. During the same time period, usage among males rose from 37 percent to 46 percent, according to the report.

This increase in female Internet usage, and the mainstreaming of the Internet in general, is changing the way people shop on the Internet, according to Jeff Moore, Strategis’ Internet consultant.

“The surge in female Internet use largely explains why clothing, for example, is the fastest-growing category of e-commerce, as female online purchasers buy clothing at a 4:1 ratio compared to males,” Moore said. “Alternatively, men buy software at a 3:1 ratio and electronics at a ratio exceeding 5:1.”

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According to Strategis consultant Matt Page, this shift away from technology-oriented men as the mainstream Internet user should serve as a wake-up call to companies doing business over the Internet.

“Companies advertising online and doing e-business will fall behind unless they understand how this shift toward more females and more mainstream users overall will affect them,” Page said.

The Strategis report also found that females are twice as likely to be “light Internet users” (less than two hours per week or less) when at work, and even lighter users (less than one hour per week or less) when at home. Males were found to be more interested in high-speed Internet access, and are also more likely to switch ISPs as a result of price increases, Strategis found.

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