Online shopping in Europe is slowly taking off. While consumers are getting used to the idea of buying online, a new Technographics® Europe Report from Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR) finds that many are held back by a lack of experience, trust, and need. Retailers need to understand how differences in consumer attitudes toward the Net will shape the online shopping experience and dictate the success of eCommerce in Europe.

Currently, only 4% of households in the five countries Forrester surveyed (France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK) have purchased online in the last three months. These shoppers resemble early online shoppers in the US — well-educated, high-income, urban males who mainly buy CDs, books, and software. These early European shoppers also demonstrate important cultural differences that reflect national patterns in preferred payment and delivery method.

“Although online behavior in Europe varies by country, nationality is not always the strongest predictor of online shopping behavior,” said Reineke Reitsma, analyst for Technographics Europe. “Forrester’s segmentation found that consumers’ attitudes toward the Net, which are largely shaped by experience and trust, are a stronger indicator of when consumers will shop online.”

To better understand what Europe’s Net shoppers will look like in 2004, Forrester segmented current users to look for significant clusters based on online behavior. Today’s online consumers fall into one of four categories, each with distinct behaviors and attitudes: Pioneer Internetters, Generation Next, Future Buyers, and Shopping Hold-Outs.

Pioneer Internetters were the first Europeans on the Internet. Career-focused and highly optimistic about technology, more than 60% of the consumers in this category bank online and 36% buy stocks. Consumers in the Generation Next category have been online for a short time but are already very active, spending an average of 5.4 hours per week online. They are entertainment-focused in both their online activities and purchases, and they are the most likely to consider price an issue when buying online.

Future Buyers have been online less than two years and are not yet making online purchases. Their trust in the medium is low and their need for products is only moderate. But this segment will grow quickly as they overcome concerns about security and discover the convenience of online shopping. Finally, the Shopping Hold-Outs, who make up 40% of Europe’s online population, have no plans to start shopping online in the next six months. Although they do not differ much in demographic profile from the Pioneer Internetters, they differ strongly in their attitudes toward the Net.

“As each of these groups gains experience, trust, and a need for online shopping’s benefits, these patterns will shift,” added Reitsma. “Over the next five years, Europe’s online population will go mainstream, bringing national characteristics to the Net. Retailers will respond with the diversity shoppers demand. The result will be a distinctly more European Internet, with fashion sites blooming in France and price-comparison sites popping up in the Netherlands.”

For the Report “eCommerce Enters Europe,” Forrester surveyed nearly 17,000 consumers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom about their attitudes, motivations, and financial ability to own or use technology. Despite their small numbers, Europe’s online shoppers are highly satisfied, with 90% indicating that they will purchase online again in the near future.