Study Peers Into World Wide Wallet

SAN FRANCISCO (04/11/2000) - E-commerce is spreading across the globe, but Americans are still highly over-represented among online shoppers, according to a new study. An estimated 120 million worldwide Internet users, or 1 in 4 people online, have already made an e-commerce purchase - with Americans constituting 54 percent of all transactions.

The survey, taken by market research firm Angus Reid, polled more than 28,000 worldwide Internet users, or about 200 Internet users in each of 34 countries.

And even though the credit card is king of e-commerce in the U.S., that isn't the case worldwide. Only half of online shoppers outside the U.S. and Canada say they use a credit card to pay for purchases. E-commerce payment methods "depend on what kind of retail and banking infrastructure there is," says Angus Reid VP Gus Schattenberg. "In countries outside of the U.S., credit cards are less distributed."

In non-English speaking countries, two popular forms of payment are direct bank drafts or cash on delivery. In Western Europe, these payment options are exercised for 22 and 10 percent of Net purchases, respectively. Trailing credit cards in Japan, bank transfers are favored by 18 percent of online buyers, and 14 percent rely on providing cash on delivery.

Even among American shoppers, infamous for wielding the plastic, only three-quarters say they use credit cards to complete their online transaction.

The second-favorite option, mailing a check or a money order, is used for about 10 percent of purchases.

The study finds that some online activities are more well-entrenched in specific regions. For example, online banking is more common in Europe, South Africa and Brazil, while downloading music files is a favorite Latin American activity. But worldwide, these activities are gaining a foothold, with 37 percent of respondents using chat and 36 percent downloading music online.

One-fifth of global users bank online, and 8 percent trade stocks. Given the relative immaturity of global retail e-commerce, one might expect a high percentage of dissatisfying online transactions.

But the study found that online buyers were almost universally content with their most recent Net transaction. About 7 out of 10 people surveyed considered themselves very satisfied with their latest online purchase. Of the remainder, 22 percent considered themselves somewhat satisfied and only 6 percent expressed dissatisfaction.

Angus Reid conducted a random phone survey of at least 500 people in each of the 34 countries studied in order to determine the characteristics of those online. Two hundred Net users then were recruited in each country, matched to the characteristics gleaned from the overall population survey. The surveys were conducted between October 1999 and January 2000. Angus Reid estimates that the countries surveyed, which include South Africa, Argentina, Poland and Russia among many others, represent 85 percent of the world's Internet users.

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