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Top Web Shoppers? Women, By a Landslide

Almost two-thirds of those who shop the Internet several times a week are women, says a new study, and they represent major purchasing power: 32 percent have incomes over $75,000 per year.

Who's not buying? Students, the young, minorities, and households without kids. But according to a study of 2,198 Web users released by Internet customer service provider PeopleSupport, 63 percent of those who shop online more than once a week are women.

"The finding that women have so quickly become the Web's top shoppers should come as no surprise," said Lance Rosenzweig, chief executive officer of PeopleSupport. "Women have traditionally been responsible for 80 percent of household purchases. As more purchases take place online, women will continue to take charge in that world as well."

But women's dominance as the Web's most frequent shoppers has taken place more quickly than expected, Rosenzweig said. In 1995, just 15 percent of Web surfers were women; today 50 percent of the approximately 100 million Americans on the Web are women.

"Over nine million women have logged onto the Internet for the first time in the past year, and 58 percent of all new Internet users are now women," said Rosenzweig. "By the year 2002, women will outnumber men on the Internet by a 3-to-2 margin."

Overall, the study indicates that 19 percent of Internet users are already shopping at least once a week, with 5.1 percent shopping online several times a week. But the study also shows that almost one out of eight Internet users (15.9 percent) still have never used the Internet for shopping. Of the remainder, 22 percent say that they shop online once a month, and 43 percent shop online only a few times a year.

According to the survey, almost one-third (31 percent) of the Internet's "supershoppers" --- defined in the study as those who shop online several times a week -- are in the 45-54 age group. And, 31.9 percent of them have incomes over $75,000 per year. Fifty-seven percent of the supershoppers are married, and 44 percent have kids under the age of 18 living at home. And while the vast majority (61 percent) of the supershoppers have been using the Web for over five years, 20 percent have been on for less than three months.

Supershoppers are also among the most demanding when it comes to customer service: About one out of 10 (11.5 percent) say that they require telephone-based customer service somewhat or very often. Over one-third of the Supershoppers (38 percent) say that going off-line to get customer service through a toll-free number is a "very frustrating experience." Almost half of all Supershoppers (42 percent) have to sign off of the Internet to make that call.

"It's clear the best customers of online retailers are also those who expect the most in terms of customer service," said Rosenzweig. "With online retailers often paying hundreds of dollars to attract a single new customer, retaining these supershoppers is crucial to the future success of online retailers."

Founded in 1998, PeopleSupport is an outsourcing provider of Internet customer care for e-commerce companies. The study was conducted with the assistance of the NPD Group Inc.