More Users, Less Trust

Internet users are becoming a study in contradictions, according to research from Consumer Internet Barometer that compares U.S. consumers from Q4 2001 to Q3 2002.

The comparative data found that more Americans are going online – 61 percent according to the current measurements as opposed to 59 percent at the end of 2001 – with more also surfing the Internet daily (35.3 percent versus 33.7 percent), yet fewer Internet users express overall trust, which declined from 26.7 percent at the end of 2001 to 25.5 percent in the current survey. However, satisfaction showed a one-point increase (40.1 percent to 41.1 percent)

Surprisingly, with the exception of financial transactions, fewer Internet users trust that their personal information will be safe when engaging in specific online activities.


Levels of Satisfaction and Trust
Extremely satisfied with the following online activities Trust that personal information will be safe when doing the following online activities
Q4 2001 Q3 2002 Q4 2001 Q3 2002
Personal communication 36.5% 39.9% 24.1% 22.9%
Personal research 26.6% 31.7% 23.7% 23.2%
Purchasing products 24.0% 24.9% 21.9% 21.2%
Financial transactions 25.5% 32.2% 27.5% 31.5%
Playing games 28.1% 29.0% 29.7% 29.9%
Work-related activities 25.8% 28.6% 25.7% 25.3%
Source: Consumer Internet Barometer



The research, culled from a quarterly mail survey of 5,000 male and 5,000 female heads of household and conducted by
NFO WorldGroup, also found that there are fewer online consumers who reportedly made at least one online purchase in Q3 2002 compared to 2001’s holiday season. But there was an increase in the amount of money spent, particularly in the $251 to $500 range where there was a gain from 14.8 percent to 16.3 percent and the $1,001+ category (from 4.9 percent to 6.8 percent).

“The rise in average spending per individual, coupled with the increase in traffic as the holiday season approaches, should help boost online sales in the coming months,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center for The Conference Board.


Spent more than $250 online in the past 3 months
Online frequency Q4 2001 Q1 2002 Q2 2002 Q3 2002
Daily 30.9% 36.0% 33.3% 33.9%
Several times a week 22.5% 26.1% 24.7% 24.7%
About once a week 16.7% 13.4% 18.2% 20.4%
At least monthly 14.7% 21.0% 15.9% 22.3%
All households 27.8% 32.1% 30.0% 30.9%
Source: Consumer Internet Barometer



The study also found that there was an increase among consumers who primarily used the Internet for personal research (19.2 percent in Q3 2002 compared to 18.7 percent in Q4 2001); purchasing products (2.8 percent in Q3 2002 compared to 2.6 percent in Q4 2001); and work-related activities (18.1 percent in Q3 2002 compared to 17.3 percent in Q4 2001). A decline was measured in personal communication (36.4 percent in Q3 2002 compared to 39.2 percent in Q4 2001); and playing games (4.0 percent in Q3 2002 compared to 4.1 percent in Q4 2001). Financial transactions stayed the same at 2.9 percent.

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