Number of Net Users Shopping Online Up 50 Percent

The number of Internet users worldwide who have shopped online has increased by 50 percent over the past year, according to a 36-country study by Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive (TNSi). Some 15 percent of all Internet users shopped online in the past month, compared with 10 percent 12 months ago.

The research, which is based on more than 42,000 interviews across Europe, North and South America and Asia-Pacific, also shows that the proportion of Internet users who have shopped offline (again, in the past month) as a result of information found online is 15 percent. This suggests that about 27 percent of users worldwide are now shopping directly or indirectly via the internet.

“These findings show that online shopping is continuing to undergo significant growth worldwide, despite the much publicized problems of the industry,” said Arno Hummerston, director of TNSi. “In part, this is because of increasing confidence in online properties — especially in the more established e-markets. However, it is also the result of a growing number of users in emerging markets shopping online for the first time. What is encouraging is that the range of products and services purchased via the internet is increasing, and that there is a more obvious success in the integration of offline and online activities. It appears that the e-commerce world is realizing that it exists within an offline world and not in an independent environment.”

While the highest proportion of Internet users worldwide are under 30 years of age, those who are most likely to make an online purchase are between 30 and 40 years old, with just 7 percent of the under-20s shopping online. This may be explained by the more limited availability of credit facilities to the younger age group, but still demonstrates a clear opportunity for online marketers to use youth-orientated Web sites to encourage more direct sales (i.e., offline shopping) among younger users.

The TNSi study also revealed that online providers of products and services may be going some way towards reassuring Internet users on security issues. Worldwide, less than four out of 10 users who have not and do not plan to shop online stated that concerns regarding disclosing their credit card details, or associated security problems, were reasons for not doing so. More than 60 percent cited a wide range of other reasons ranging from it being “easier and more fun to buy goods or services in a store” to the fact that they thought the “time taken to deliver goods is too long.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Across all of the countries surveyed, some 31 percent of the total adult population have used the Internet during the past month (36 percent of males and 27 percent of females). The biggest increases have been in Germany (from 28 percent to 36 percent) and Britain (from 27 percent to 34 percent).
  • Some 17 percent of Internet users say that they plan to buy or order goods or services online within the next 6 months — this is highest in Japan, with 41 percent of users.
  • The most popular items purchased online continue to be books (purchased by 26 percent of online shoppers) and CDs/music (17 percent) Compared with 12 months ago, however, a smaller proportion of shoppers has purchased both of these items in 2001. Other popular items include clothes (13 percent), groceries/food (8 percent) and vacations/leisure travel (9 percent).
  • The United States maintains its position as the country with the largest percentage of online shoppers (33 percent of all Internet users, compared with 27 percent in 2000).
  • The price of products and services over the Internet is not a significant issue, with just 6 percent of nonshoppers saying that they did not buy online for price-related reasons.

“Clear differences are emerging in purchasing patterns — for example, between different age groups,” Hummerston said. “These, in turn, will create new challenges for retailers (and not just e-tailers) worldwide. A study on this scale, while it demonstrates that some e-commerce trends are shared across all markets, also helps to show that Internet shoppers worldwide by no means share the same expectations of an online related retail experience.”

For the purposes of the study, An “Internet user” was defined as someone who personally used the Internet in the past month (at time of interview).

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