Who are the online customers

Many researchers have written about which sectors of society use the Internet. Hoffman and Novak (1998) focused on the impact of demographics, and highlight inequities of Internet access based on race and gender. Sorce et al. (2005) looked at age and found that 'while older shoppers search for significantly fewer products than their younger counterparts they actually purchase as much as the younger consumer'. More specifically, The National Statistics Office (UK) (2005) identified that people aged 25-44 were most likely to buy online (63%), while people aged 65 and over were least likely to buy online (41%). Mori (2005), the market research agency specialising in reporting on public opinion has maintained a consistent interest in the technology sector. Mori (2005) have been watching technology usage in general and, in particular, who is using the Internet. This data highlights important trends that can help a retailer to develop a deeper understanding of which technologies consumers might use to access the e-retailer's online offer (see Chapter 2 for further discussion).

Another variable to consider when identifying the online consumers is where do individuals access the Internet both in terms of the nature of the point of access and geographical location.

• Point of access - the nature of the location can be fixed or mobile and, say, be at home or work. According to the National Statistics Office (2005), the most common place to access the Internet was at home (88%), although 48% have accessed it at work, 29% at another person's home, 13% at a place of education and 10% at a public library. The main means of access was via a desktop computer (85%) followed by a laptop (28%) and mobile phone (22%). In Britain, in July 2005, over half of households (approximately 12.9 million) could access the Internet from home, a trend which has been increasing year on year.

• Geographical location - there are varying levels of Internet penetration around the globe (see Table 10.1 and Table 10.2 for various statistics). Asia now has the largest number of Internet users, followed by the European Union (EU). Interestingly the USA no longer has the highest density of users per head of population (see Table 10.2) as in Sweden over 75% of the population are connected to the Internet. The size and density of user populations vary considerably from country to country and a key reason for this is the Internet infrastructure, which has not developed to the same extent on a worldwide scale. In general, northern European countries have a higher level of Internet penetration per head of population than southern European and former Eastern bloc countries. Underdeveloped, highly populated nations tend to have a comparatively low level of Internet penetration but more rapid growth rates than compared with highly developed nations.

Table 10.1 World Internet users and population statistics (2005)

World regions

Population (2oo5 est.)

Population % of world

Internet usage, latest data

% Population (penetration)

Usage % of world

Usage growth 2ooo-2oo5

Africa

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