Gender Gap Narrows, Changing Landscape for E-Commerce

Women have narrowed the “Internet gender gap” from 21 percent to only 8 percent in less
than two years, creating significant marketing trends for e-commerce,
according to a new industry report.

According to “Internet User Trends: Year-End 1998,” a study recently
by Washington, DC-based The Strategis Group, only 16 percent of
U.S. adult females used the Internet in mid-1997, compared to 37 percent of males;
but female usage mushroomed to 38 percent by the end of 1998, while that of males
grew to 46 percent.

Percentage using the Internet:

Mid ’97 Mid ’98 End ’98
Males 37.3% 39.7% 46%
Females 16.5% 26% 37.8%

The study shows that, while the gender imbalance is disappearing, major
differences remain in how the Internet is used.

“The surge in female Internet use largely explains why clothing, for
is the fastest-growing category of e-commerce, as female online purchasers
buy clothing at a 4:1 ratio compared to males,” said Jeff Moore, Internet
consultant with the Strategis Group. “Alternatively, men buy software at a
3:1 ratio and electronics at a ratio exceeding 5:1.”

“The Internet’s days as the domain of technology-oriented men are over,”
Strategis Group’s consultant Matt Page. “Companies advertising online and
doing e-business will fall behind unless they understand how this shift
toward more females and more mainstream users overall will affect them.”

“This gap will continue to narrow,” predicted Elliott Hamilton, senior vice
president, North American Telecom at The Strategis Group. “The Internet
adoption rate is essentially the same for male and female users 18 to 34,
while female users 65 and older are less than half as likely to use the
Internet as their male counterparts.”

The study also showed that females are twice as likely to be “light users”
(two hours per week or less) of the Internet in the workplace and spend
nearly an hour per week less on the Internet at home. Males are more likely
to switch Internet service providers as a result of price increases, but are
more interested in high-speed access.

The report is available for $1,500 for one copy or $2,500 for a bi-annual

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