Europeans Going Digital

Internet penetration in Europe will grow from 19 percent to 33 percent by 2003 as Europeans accelerate their integration of new technologies into everyday life, according to the Technographics Europe Report by Forrester Research.

Driven by tumbling prices and the lure of the Internet, PC ownership in Europe will surge over the next four years, surpassing the US in some European nations. Led by a 72 percent penetration rate in Sweden, PC adoption across Europe will grow from 36 percent to more than 46 percent in 2003. The Internet will be the killer app that will motivate most of these purchases.

By 2003, Forrester expects the online population in the countries it surveyed to reach nearly 60 million — up from 33.9 million in 1999 — with more than 20 million enjoying broadband access.

Europe will continue to lead the world in digital telephone ownership, reaching almost 100 million European adults by 2003. With 12 percent of Europe’s Internet users spending 10 or more hours per week online, Europeans will be the first to use digital phones to access the Internet.

By 2003, Forrester expects nearly 30 percent of Europe’s online consumers to be using non-PC devices to access the Web, although only 2 million will use these devices as their primary means of access.

Despite the political and cultural differences that exist within Europe, consumers own many of the same electronics products and exhibit similar online behaviors,” said Forrester Europe analyst Reineke Reitsma. “These similarities suggest that consumer demand for technology is primarily needs-driven, and that these needs — for entertainment, security, or status, for example — are shared across borders.”

Europeans also demonstrate the strongest demand for mature consumer electronics such as VCRs and CD players, according to Forrester. While there are some adoption gaps between countries for these technologies, these can be explained by pricing differences and political proclivities. Similarly, Europe’s Internet population tends to migrate toward many of the same online activities. Sending e-mail, going on the Web, using search engines, and visiting company/product sites are universally popular activities.

Europe’s online shoppers value the Web’s convenience as a retail channel, with books, CDs, and computer products topping the list of most popular online purchases. However, consumers’ online shopping behaviors exhibit distinct national tendencies. Germans, for example, are twice as likely to buy books online as the Dutch, while the British are twice as likely as Swedes to purchase airline tickets online. Meanwhile, the French are the least likely to use the Web for company or product information, or to buy online at all.

Forrester surveyed nearly 17,000 consumers in five countries, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, about their attitudes, motivations, and financial ability to own or use technology. The survey results indicate that technology optimism is a strong determinant of technology adoption in Europe, and consumers who own a PC are 80 percent more likely to be excited and enthusiastic about technology in general. The corresponding figure is 150 percent for Internet users and 50 percent for digital phone owners.

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