Study Sees Growth in Online Retailing

An Ernst & Young LLP survey released yesterday at the National Retail Federation Conference here showed substantial growth in the number of consumers interested in buying goods online and the number of manufacturers and retailers looking to tap into that interest.

The study of 1,363 consumers, 74 manufacturers and 41 retailers found that 10 percent of U.S. households purchased goods online last year, up from 7 percent in 1997. The study offered evidence that online shopping is becoming something of a habit for people who have taken the plunge into electronic commerce.

In 1998, 38 percent of online shoppers surfed for goods between five to 10 times, while in 1997, only 13 percent shopped on the Internet that frequently. Consumers who shopped online only once were 14 percent of the total last year, down from 33 percent of the total in the previous year.

Online shoppers are also spending more, the report found. While in 1997, 45 percent of cybershoppers spent less than US$100, only 34 percent spent less than that amount in 1998. Meanwhile, the percentage of shoppers spending more than $300 last year was 35 percent, up 9 percentage points from 1997's figures.

Computer-related products and books captured shoppers' attention more frequently than any other product categories, with 39 percent of households making such purchases. Book purchasing nearly doubled in its reach: In 1997, only 20 percent of households bought books online. To capture this emerging market, the study found, retailers have been streaming to the Web in the past year.

In 1998, 39 percent of the 41 retailers surveyed had climbed online, compared with only 12 percent of the retailers surveyed in 1997. Another 37 percent of those businesses said they planned to go online in the future. Manufacturers are also increasing their presence on the Internet. Last year, 15 percent said they were on the Web, compared with just 9 percent in 1997, the study found.

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