Sisters are doing it for themselves

Could women become more valuable than men in the race for e-commerce eyeballs?

New research into home Internet use published this week shows that British women are catching up with their male counterparts.

MMXI, an Internet audience monitoring firm, has seen steady growth in the number of UK women going online over the last nine months, and believes that we might see an equal ratio of the sexes in this country within twelve months. In the US, more women than men now surf the Web.

Last October of the 7.8 million home Internet users in the UK, women made up 39 percent. Figures for June show that the number of home Internet users has risen to 10.6 million with women now accounting for 42.5 percent.

Lucy Green, marketing director at MMXI, believes this trend will continue. "We're seeing a rapid increase in the numbers of women logging on to the Net across Europe, as ease of access improves," she said. "If this growth continues, it's possible that there could be as many UK women as men surfing from home within a year."

Green explains that usage patterns show that women use the Net for practical tasks. "We're seeing women primarily use the Internet for shopping and to find information. E-banking, e-commerce and travel sites are all very popular," she said.

Women represent the largest proportion of visitors to tescodirect.com, tescodirect.co.uk, egreetings.com and handbag.com. "Another growing trend is the popularity of health sites, where a mother can type in her ill child's symptoms and receive advice," she added.

Green believes it is possible that if women continue to use the Internet for practical tasks they could become a more important audience than men for web retailers. "We could reach a situation where most UK women are using the Internet to shop, check bank accounts and book holidays, while men primarily log on to find Web content and to download games," she says.

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