For the first time in the Internet’s history, there are more women than men online in the United States, according to a study released Wednesday.
“It’s a Woman’s World Wide Web,” the report from Media Metrix (Nasdaq: MMXI) and Jupiter Communications (Nasdaq: JPTR), found that explosive growth in Internet usage among teenage girls and steady growth among women 55-and-over has pulled women slightly ahead of men in online use.
According to the study, which surveyed 55,000 Internet users, 50.4 percent of current Web users are women and 49.6 percent are men. Internet use among women grew by almost 35 percent from May 1999 through May 2000, compared to 22 percent for all users.
“Clearly we’re glimpsing a new gender parity online,” said Anya Sacharow, a Jupiter analyst and co-author of the study.
Teens Lead Way
Teenage girls by far are the fastest growing age segment, showing an increase of 125 percent over the past year — from 1.9 million to 4.4 million unique visitors. This growth rate is five times higher than the overall expansion of Internet use.
The online population of women 55-and-over grew by 110 percent during the period studied, though those women still make up just over four percent of all Web users.
While the study is the first to show that gender parity has arrived online, others have spotted the trend in the past. Forrester Research said earlier this year that 45 percent of all online shoppers are female. Also, the Consumer Electronics Association said that women now buy 22 percent of all the electronics sold in the U.S., a market traditionally dominated by male consumers.
Men Log On from Mars, Women Log On from Venus
The study found inherent differences in the way women use the Web as compared to men. If the rapid increase in usage by women continues as expected, Internet sites could capitalize on those differences, the study said.
“Women tend to be more time-pressed,” Sacharow said. While men are willing to devote time to software downloads and upgrades, Sacharow said that “women seek ease of use and rely on the Web to make their lives more efficient and productive.”
“It’s no longer enough to think of women as the target audience,” Sacharow said. “To reach the women’s market, sites must pursue deeper relationships, based on interests, personal identities, and affinities.”
Proof in the Numbers
“I feel vindicated,” Autobytel.com spokesperson Melanie Weber told the E-Commerce Times. Autobytel recently unveiled “Autobytel for Her,” a car-buying section aimed at women.
“I’ve been saying for years that women are the sleeping giant in e-commerce,” Weber added.
In addition to providing content aimed at women, Autobytel has tried to make connections with female shoppers by becoming a sponsor of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and distributing and cataloging safety-related recall information.
“Women tend to be more interested in safety issues, so that one way that we’re trying to make that bond,” Weber said.
Differences Within Gender
Still, women’s online tendencies can’t all be summarized with ease. While e-commerce sites such as Autobytel have been searching for innovative ways to make women feel at home buying over the Internet, online community sites still attract the most visitors among 24-to-35 year-olds, who are believed to have considerable buying power and interest in big-ticket items such as cars and houses.
Also, despite differences between men and women of certain age groups, the sites visited most often by women overall were the same as those winning with men: America Online, Microsoft’s family of sites, Yahoo! and Lycos.