Online shopping is becoming a regular habit for almost a quarter of the UK's web surfing population, according to the latest national survey of attitudes towards the internet.
The survey, the third annual report of its kind, was conducted by research organisation Mori and sponsored by Which? Online. Mori interviewed some 1970 people at 151 points around the UK in late May.
The researcher estimates that there are now almost six million regular online shoppers in the UK - a quarter of all those who now have regular access to the internet. This compares with 10 per cent last year and two per cent in 1998.
But while the results indicate that consumers are moving online at a faster rate, they continue to do so for specific types of goods (such as CDs, DVDs, groceries and computer peripherals), and many are still concerned enough about security to reject online purchasing altogether.
Furthermore, the survey indicates that almost 15 million adults in the UK remain staunch "net refuseniks". They feel the internet is irrelevant to their needs and they are put off by the high cost of getting access through a PC, although their attitudes may change when Wap phones and web TVs give easier access to web services and email.
"Internet service and content providers need to establish a clear message for non-users to show how they can benefit from online activity," said Which? Online's head, Paul Kitchen.
"New methods of access like interactive TV and mobile phones, which offer consumers a mode of accessing the internet without the expense of a PC, may change many minds. But if they don't, the digital divide may become a real problem," he added.
Internet shopping is most popular among so-called mature internet users (those who have been online for three years or more), but 30 per cent of regular internet users still have qualms about giving their credit card details over the internet.
Furthermore, there is widespread concern over the effects the internet may have on existing bricks and mortar businesses. Some 30 per cent of all those surveyed said they thought the internet was a serious threat to high street businesses.
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