Online Consumers Now the Average Consumer Staff

Updated · Jul 12, 2001

After years of slowly converging, the profile of the average adult American Internet user looks like the profile of the average American, according to online market research firm InsightExpress.

The demographic shift — from early adopters of new technology who are young, relatively wealthy and predominantly male, to average Americans — is important because it validates the Internet as a mainstream marketing, advertising and research platform.

Though Internet users still have a moderately higher average household income, the Internet has been adopted by nearly every segment of the U.S. population.

“The most common criticism of the Internet as a marketing vehicle is that it does not reach the average consumer,” said Lee Smith, COO of InsightExpress. “Our profile of the online consumer should silence that notion as it demonstrates the online consumer is now very similar to the average American.”

The most noticeable demographic shift is seen among Internet use by gender. Female Web surfers have overtaken men in numbers in the United States, and are surging onto the Net in the Asia-Pacific region. Other trends show that women are more efficient in their Web behavior than men, and are showing an increasing willingness by women to purchase online.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings’ data compiled in May 2001, women now make up 52 percent of the total at-home U.S. Web population, which mirrors the offline population. This trend is also being seen in other markets worldwide, but most rapidly in Asia-Pacific, where in Australia women now make up 48 percent of the Internet population, followed by New Zealand (46 percent), South Korea (45 percent), Hong Kong (44 percent), Singapore (42 percent) and Taiwan (41 percent).

Internet Adoption by Gender, Age & Income
1996 Online
2001 Online
U.S. Population
(2000 Census)
Male 62% 49% 49%
Female 38% 51% 51%
Household Income $62,700 $49,800 $40,816b
Adults 18-49 88% 76% 63%
Adults 50+ 12% 24% 37%
a) InsightExpress sample
b) 1999 U.S. Census
Source: InsightExpress

Since January of 2001, the number of female surfers has grown an average of 36 percent across the Asia-Pacific region, with the number of Australian women online increasing 16 percent. Women in the Asia-Pacific region spread their surfing over a longer period of time during the day, with more than 50 percent of female surfers in region active between the afternoon and evening prime time hours from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. By comparison, men’s surfing times peak later at night with more than 70 percent of male surfers active in each hour between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“Women were later adopters of the Internet, but are making up for that lag now, and the speed with which they are coming online means, as a demographic, women must become a priority for most e-tailers,” said Brian Milnes, managing director Pacific, ACNielsen “Globally we have found that women are a fussier breed of surfer than their male counterparts. Women are much more efficient in their Web usage — they spend less time online as they generally know what they’re looking for and leave once they achieve their goal. E-marketers should take this tendency into account by ensuring their sites focus on ease and convenience.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, women spent an average of 12 hours online in May, compared to men who spent 14.5 hours. In Australia, women spent an average of 7 hours online in May, compared to men’s 9 hours of surfing.

“To win the favor of women online in the long term, e-tailers need to act now with aggressive but well-targeted marketing — establishing brand loyalty with women early on is the key to securing their online custom.”

Female Composition of Internet
At-home users, May 2001
Country % Female Country % Female
United States 52% Norway 43%
Canada 51% Singapore 42%
Australia 48% Brazil 42%
New Zealand 46% Taiwan 41%
Finland 46% UK 41%
South Korea 45% Netherlands 41%
Sweden 45% Spain 40%
Denmark 45% France 39%
Ireland 45% Germany 37%
Hong Kong 44% Italy 37%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Reprinted from CyberAtlas.

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