Internet activity in the American e-commerce arena is very largely being
driven by the young and the affluent, according to a new research study from
the Conference Board.
Still, although more consumers are buying more products online, the vast
majority of Americans have yet to make their first Internet purchase, the
The numbers are growing, however. About 34 percent of U.S. householders have
made a purchase over the Internet in the past year, up from 24 percent a year
ago. Books, airline tickets and other travel-related items are the products
being purchased most frequently via the Internet.
“More Americans in all age and income groups are buying online but Internet
activity is still heavily driven by the young and the affluent,” said Lynn
Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center.
The survey was conducted for the Conference Board by NFO Research Inc. and
was based on a representative sample of 5,000 households.
The results show that the nation’s young adults (25-34) are the biggest
Internet shoppers, with 55 percent having bought something this year, up from
40 percent a year ago. The 35-44 age group is the next biggest segment of the
online market, with 45 percent having bought online, up from 33 percent last
year. Perhaps not surprisingly, consumers 65 and over are the least likely to
Purchasing trends continue to favor inexpensive items, with 60 percent of
respondents claiming their biggest one-time purchase was under $200.
Approximately 28 percent claim their largest purchase totaled less than $50.
“Competitive prices and increased security are the two keys to building
business,” Franco said. “Internet consumers cite both issues as being the
major factors regarding their future online transactions. For those yet to
break the e-commerce barrier, security and pricing issues also remain the key
The survey found that among householders earning in excess of $50,000,
approximately 53 percent have purchased via the Internet, up from 40 percent.
The second most active market are householders in the $35,000-$49,999 income
bracket. About 35 percent of these householders have bought online, up from
nearly 27 percent in the last survey.
Interestingly, a substantial increase in purchasing activity occurred among
householders in the $25,000-$34,999 earnings bracket, from less than 18
percent to nearly 29 percent.
The Conference Board is a not-for-profit, non-advocacy organization that
provides objective business knowledge through the Consumer Confidence Index
Leading Economic Indicators and sponsors other research and conferences.