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Surprise! According to a new survey, the Internet landscape is changing. Aren't you used to it by now?
For one thing, the Net surfer stereotype of a Jolt-sucking man squinting through thick glasses is history. That's because women have discovered the Web--and they're packing credit cards, too.
"Men were undoubtedly the early adopters of Internet commerce," says Jerome Samson, director of technology and business strategy for Nielsen Media Research in New York City. "But women have emerged as a powerful buying force on the Web."
According to the study, conducted in April 1999 by Nielsen Media Research and CommerceNet, an industry consortium for Internet commerce, today's women Internet shoppers represent 41 percent of Web consumers. And nearly half (46 percent) the Net's estimated 92 million users are now women.
"More than two out of every five people in North America are now Internet users," says Mark Resch, executive vice president of CommerceNet. "With more than 30 percent of users being Internet consumers, we're seeing a tidal wave of e-commerce in North America."
The study also shows that many who get a taste of cybershopping return in droves. Nine million consumers make Web purchases once a month and one million people buy online at least once a week. Of course, not everyone shopping online buys. An estimated seven million online computer shopper and 7.9 million apparel shoppers turn out to be looky-loos, according to the study.
But instead of lost sales, researchers see a different trend emerging: using the Net as a shopping research tool. A significant number of consumers are going online to compare prices and features on products and services--and then making purchases offline. Adds Loel McPhee of CommerceNet: "Companies have made it easier to get product information via the Web, and people are responding."
J.W. Dysart (firstname.lastname@example.org), a software analyst and Internet business consultant, has written for more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.