Global Internet useage patterns converge

Global Internet useage patterns converge

Internet access may vary greatly from country to country, but consumers around the globe reveal strikingly similar attitudes to the online medium, according to the 2000 American Express Global Internet Survey.

The survey report entitled, “Online Attitudes Move In Line Across the Globe,” reveals that nearly half (46 percent) of all consumers polled are embracing the convenience and global reach of the Internet for a variety of activities - from communication and research to shopping and banking - with many more expecting to join the ranks of Web surfers in the coming months.

The survey polled 11,410 Internet users and non-users across ten countries - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United States.

The survey confirms that Internet penetration and availability varies widely from country to country. At least three out of five people in the United States (66 percent), Canada (60 percent) and Australia (60 percent) have access. In contrast, only about one-third of consumers in Argentina (35 percent), UK (35 percent), Brazil (32 percent) and Japan (27 percent) are online today. Sweden tops the ten nations with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the population already surfing the Web.

Optimistically, the survey also indicates that more consumers within each country expect to be moving online shortly. Fully 20 percent of those without access today intend to be online within the next 12 months. Brazil and Argentina expect the greatest number of new Internet users at 33 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Overall, Internet access across the ten nations polled is anticipated to reach 57 percent within one year.

Across all ten countries, an overall 28 percent of current and future Internet users are either shopping online today or expect to within the next year. Those in Hong Kong are leading this trend with over half (54 percent) indicating that they already or will shop online, followed by the United States (39 percent) and Sweden (28 percent).

In addition, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of current and future Internet users say they currently or intend to make financial transactions online. This activity is particularly popular in Sweden where almost half (46 percent) say they will be handling their finances electronically in the next year. More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents in Australia express similar plans.

Other budding online activities include travel research and bookings (39 percent) and checking credit card balances online (17 percent).

Consumers around the world also show similarities in what they are buying on the Internet. The majority of online purchases are small-ticket items, like event tickets (46 percent) and books (40 percent), followed by videos, CDs and computer games (28 percent). While comparatively low, respondents across all ten countries express some likelihood to purchase more expensive items on the Internet, such as stocks (21 percent), electronics (20 percent) and household appliances (16 percent).

According to the survey, Internet users overall plan to make an average of six purchases online over the next 12 months. Australians and Americans, in particular, show the greatest number of expected purchases during this period, with an average of eight and seven, respectively.

Despite the promising movement toward online purchasing, the American Express survey highlights that consumers still overwhelmingly prefer the traditional shopping experience. In fact, 72 percent of all respondents say they would be more likely to use the Internet to browse and comparison shop, but actually purchase from a “real world” store. Similarly, roughly four-in-five (84 percent) consumers acknowledged that they still prefer to physically see the item they are considering and deal directly with a live person.

This trepidation could be linked to further survey findings that reveal widespread concern among consumers when it comes to Internet security and service. Almost four-in-five (79 percent) people across all ten countries cite security and privacy issues when purchasing or making financial transactions online as a concern. Over three-quarters (76 percent) of all respondents are concerned about service issues, such as returning goods bought on the Internet.

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