It will be a cautious online Christmas, dashing expectations of a UK ecommerce seasonal splurge, with under a third of users deciding not to buy over the Internet.
The sexual divide over shopping online is apparent with some 80 per cent of women on the Web yet to make an online purchase compared to 64 per cent of men. Instead, 86 per cent of users have used the Web to investigate products or services online.
The security issue is largely to blame - overall 50 per cent of the 50,000 Internet users surveyed by Fletcher Research this autumn said they were unhappy about giving their credit card to online vendors, compared to only 18 per cent expressing confidence.
Neil Bradford, director of Fletcher Research, expects confidence to rise with numbers, predicting 24.5 million adults with Internet access by 2003 up from 15 million today: "As the number of regular users rises, so too will their comfort factor in making online purchases," he said.
While women remain less enthusiastic about the Internet than men, the male bias is decreasing. The ratio of men to women is 3:2, down from nearly 2:1 in December 1998.
Email remains the most popular online activity at home (80 per cent) and at work (62 per cent).
Generation X is a driving factor for Internet usage - the average age of the UK Internet user is 35. Only nine per cent are 55 or older (against 31 per cent of total population), and 8.3 per cent are under 18 (against the five per cent of total population).
Although many users dislike ads, with 34 per cent saying banner advertising is irritating, the ad men love users who tend to be well off and well educated. Just under half (40 per cent) have a degree compared with the national average of 12 per cent and the average household income per month after tax is £36,000 compared to the UK average of £20,000.
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