Report: New Profile for ‘Typical’ Web User

With more Americans going online each day, the typical online consumer is no longer the “Internet geek” of lore, according to a report released Monday by Yankee Group, a Boston, Massachusetts-based research and analysis firm.

“The Web is no longer the virtual playground of well-educated males and technology aficionados,” Yankee said. “The online consumer population is undergoing a major shift.”

Of the total U.S. households currently online, 33 percent have had Web access for less than a year, the report said. Moreover, 60 percent of these new home users are women, and many earn average or below-average incomes.

Though Yankee analyst Lisa Melsted told the E-Commerce Times that “there’s still quite a bit of work to be done on the other fronts,” such as ethnicity and race, the study showed that the “digital divide” is narrowing as far as income and gender.

Reaching the Mass Market

Overall, Melsted said the results of the survey are significant because they show “the Internet has begun to reach into the mass consumer market in the United States.”

“We’re just now beginning to cross the divide between those segments of the population that have been deemed the technology ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,'” said Melsted, who works in Yankee’s Internet market strategies planning service. “What’s more, for those consumers online, the Internet is becoming as much of a daily habit at home as turning on the television.”

Price Is Right

Lower prices for personal computers and low-cost or free Internet services are among the forces driving the trend, Yankee said. Some 47 percent of the new Internet users surveyed had free Internet accounts, the survey found.

Eighty-seven percent of the Internet users polled for Yankee Group’s Interactive Consumer Survey said they log on at home at least once a day.

Most people, the survey found, do not log on to “surf” the Net, but rather go on line with a specific purpose in mind. More than half the respondents said they always or usually use the same online sources at home and at work, with only 3 percent saying they use random sources.

E-mail, Information Top List of Net Uses

E-mail, rated the top online activity by 68 percent of the survey respondents, is “still the killer application,” Yankee said. Education and learning ranked second, and news-gathering was also high.

Yankee found that shopping is the most popular activity in a growing e-commerce market, ranking “high above” banking, stock trading and online bill-paying.

Sixty-three percent of the survey respondents had done some shopping online in the past month, and 25 percent ranked shopping among their top three Internet uses, Melsted said.

The survey was e-mailed to 3,500 U.S. households.

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