Strong Growth Predicted to Continue in European Internet Market

AOL and Roper Starch have conducted their Cyberstudy report for three years to gauge consumer adoption and use of the Internet. Now, AOL Europe has gotten in on the act and examined the European Internet audience.

The first AOL Europe/Roper Starch Cyberstudy found the European Internet is growing explosively, mirroring consumer adoption patterns in the United States. The study was conducted among online consumers in Germany, Britain and France, and it reported that more than one-third of users had come online in the last year and 20 percent in the last six months alone, pointing the way towards continued strong growth in Europe.

The study also found that a majority of online consumers in these key markets have made purchases online and that over half of these online Europeans said the Internet has become just about a necessity in their lives. In order to continue the current growth, seven in 10 European online consumers needs to suggest to a friend or family member that they get online.

More than half (54 percent) of European Internet users report making a purchase online and 43 percent said they do so regularly or occasionally. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Europeans use the Internet to get information about products to buy. U.K. consumers were even more likely than U.S. Internet users to say they plan to increase the number of online purchases they will make in the next few years than U.S. users (54 percent to 50 percent), and Europeans are nearly twice as likely to engage in online banking as their U.S. counterparts (27 percent to 14 percent).

As expected, European online consumers follow the familiar trend established in the United States of expanding their online activities as they gain more online experience, moving from research and communications to commerce and other activities with time. Nearly 80 percent of those online for less than one year report regularly or occasionally communicating with friends and family via the Internet, but only 29 percent of newcomers purchase online and only 26 percent bank online. In contrast, 52 percent of those online over three years regularly or occasionally make online purchases and 58 percent of those online over three years bank on the Internet.

As in the United States, among the most popular online activities among Europeans were conducting research (85 percent regularly or occasionally engage in the activity online), communicating with friends and family (84 percent), and getting news (71 percent).

The study also examined the use of the Internet by children and how it is affecting their development and family life. Thirty-two percent of parents with an online child feel that being online has positively influenced the quality of their child’s relationships with other family members and friends. More than two-thirds of parents report going online while sitting together with their children and nearly half (48 percent) say the online medium is more positive for their children than television.

Seventy-two percent (72 percent) of parents say that being online has had a positive effect on their children’s skills for entering the job market. Internet use is also perceived as an academic resource — 61 percent of parents believe that exposure to technology has had a positive effect on the quality of their children’s homework.

Parents in each of the countries surveyed picked different reasons why Internet use is beneficial for their children. German parents (81 percent) are more apt to herald the positive impact that being online has on their children’s skills for entering the job market, while parents in the UK (73 percent) are more likely to report that being online has positively impacted the quality of their children’s homework and parents in France (71 percent) are more impressed with the impact the Internet has had on their children’s interest in hobbies.

The survey also highlights the differences in how British, French and German consumers put the Internet’s convenience to work. French online users are more likely than U.K. and German users to look up local entertainment information, use instant messaging and meet people with like interests online.

Ninety-six percent (96 percent) of French online consumers say they regularly or occasionally get their news reports online, versus 71 percent in Germany, 63 percent in the UK, and 76 percent in the United States. French users are also more likely to suggest that their friends and family go online.

German online consumers engage in more finance related online activities than their counterparts in Britain and in France. Thirty-one percent (31 percent) of German online consumers regularly bank online compared to 21 percent of French and 25 percent of U.K. consumers.

Thirty-one percent of German online consumers track their portfolio online, while only 14 percent of French and 13 percent of U.K. online consumers do so. And 20 percent of German online consumers trade stocks online, compared to 11 percent of French and only 9 percent of U.K. consumers.

British online consumers are more likely than their French and German counterparts to engage in e-commerce related activities. Nearly six in ten (55 percent) U.K. online consumers regularly or occasionally shop online, compared to 39 percent of German and 24 percent of French online consumers. Fifty-four percent of U.K. consumers expect to increase the number of purchases they make online, compared to 41 percent of French consumers and 29 percent of German consumers. Forty-six percent (46 percent) of U.K. online consumers book travel reservations and buy tickets online, compared to 29 percent of German and 36 percent of French online consumers.

The study was conducted via telephone in March 2001, among a random sample of approximately 500 home Internet/online subscribers over 18 years of age in each of the three countries.

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