While the number of UK consumers regularly using the Internet remains at a similar level to that of six months ago, the Internet is rapidly becoming an important tool for consumers to research and plan their purchase of goods and services. These are the headline findings from the latest biannual UK Internet User Monitor™ survey by Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR). As an indication of the slowing growth of the UK Internet, 22.5 million British adults (48%) use the Internet once a month or more today, up from 21.6 million adults (47%) in June 2001.
For the three-week period between October 15 and November 5, 2001, more than 63,000 Internet users responded to an online poll of more than 100 questions, providing the most comprehensive indicator of the Internet’s development in the UK. Forrester weighted its online poll with telephone and mail-out surveys of more than 6,000 people to achieve a truly representative sample of the UK population as a whole.
“Despite the slowing penetration of regular Internet users and the well-publicized dot-com bust, the Web continues to impact British buying behaviour; the number of consumers using the Internet to buy consumer goods and services is growing unabated,” said William Reeve, Forrester’s group director of European Data Products.
According to the survey’s results, around 14 million UK Internet users have used the Net to buy or order products and services today. This represents growth of more than 50% compared with the 9 million British consumers who had bought online a year ago. And, significantly for retailers, the use of the Internet to research future purchases is now one of the top three regular online activities. After sending email (72%) and using search engines (66%), more than half of UK Internet users (53%) said they researched products and services online. A further 12% said that they had bought a product or service offline (through a shop or dealer) as a result of their research online.
“The reason for the sustained growth in online buying is the growing maturity of the UK’s Internet users,” Reeve added. “Our research shows that there is a clear correlation between experience and proclivity to buy. As consumers spend longer online, they become more confident about undertaking more complex activities like online shopping. In addition, more than 13 million online consumers now feel secure about giving personal financial details online, compared with just 8 million online consumers a year ago.”
Online polling allows the recruitment of a user sample that is large enough to be statistically robust. Pop-up technology used with the agreement of all sites involved ensures that this sample is random, not self-selecting. Also, the number of high-traffic UK sites — more than 130 including Yahoo!, Freeserve, the BBC, Excite, Lycos and FT.com — ensures that the survey captures a representative proportion of total UK Web traffic during the three weeks in which it is run.