More Women Shopped Online for Holidays

This holiday season saw more women than men using the Web for shopping, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey — a fact that online marketers should heed during the upcoming year.

According to the Pew survey, which polled more than 4,000 Americans, women carried out about 58 percent of all online purchases.

“For years, men dominated the online shopping universe,” wrote Lee Rainie, the study’s principal author. “That made sense because men were more likely to be early adopters of the Internet, to feel more comfortable providing their credit card information online, and to feel there were advantages to the ease of purchasing goods online. Women began to catch up as their numbers online grew dramatically starting in mid-1999.”

In December 2000, 52 percent of online shoppers were men, and 54 percent of men with Internet access had shopped on the Web. That’s compared to 50 percent of women who had Internet access.

But that figure flip-flipped during the following 12 months. A year later, women represented 52 percent of those who had ever purchased online.

The news could reflect a confluence of changing Web demographics and established offline behavior. In the fall of 2000, studies found that the number of women on the Web had surpassed the number of online men.

At the same time, women continue to report greater enjoyment from shopping — in the latest Pew study, 37 percent of women said they typically enjoy holiday shopping, versus 17 percent of men. Only 15 percent of women said they do not at all enjoy holiday shopping, compared to 29 percent of men.

The shift also comes amid a larger context of e-commerce’s growth in general. About 29 million people bought gifts online during the 2001 holiday season, spending an average of $392 each. That’s up from the approximately 20 million people who shopped online in 2000, and who spent an average of $330.

For e-commerce marketers, the news is likely to have ramifications in terms of how they tailor their marketing messages — since it’s widely known that advertising and promotions tend to be more effective when focused on a particular consumer segment.

While they’re at it, e-tailers also might want to consider addressing lingering worries about Web shopping, which continue to keep a number of consumers from buying online. According to the Pew survey, 39 percent of Internet users said they opted not to shop via the Internet because of worries including perceived risks associated with credit card abuse.

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