MILPITAS, Calif. -- So much for Net expectations.
Three of the five cities with the greatest share of online purchasers are ones where brick-and-mortar stores abound -- Seattle, Boston and New York -- not where such choices are limited. Additionally, Internet users ages 35 to 49 account for most online buying, or about 43% of purchases made in December; it is not the youth-driven group once anticipated by e-tailers. Too, women dominate online buying -- they now account for about 60% of those making online purchases. Since women are 52% of users, the long-running myth of male cyber shoppers' supremacy is debunked.
Those virtual gems were unearthed by Nielsen/Net-Ratings here in a research report disclosed this month, titled "The Demographic Characteristics of An Online Buyer -- Who's Buying Online."
Although the millennial generation, or those ages 8 to 26, are heavy users of the Internet (especially the teen-and-above portion, which has sizable discretionary income), they are continuing to do less purchasing online than once was expected. Those ages 18 to 24 accounted for only 5.1% of those buying something online in December; those ages 17 and below, just 2.6%. In contrast, the second-biggest share of e-buyers were 25- to 34-year-olds, representing a 25.5% share of online purchasers in December, while 50- to 64-year-olds marked a 20.3% portion.
In the report on Internet demographics, Nielsen/Net-Ratings chief analyst Lisa Strand noted, "Adults ages 50 to 64 -- stereotypically cast as a less important portion of the online shopping population -- represent a major customer base for online retailers to court aggressively."
Curiously, people residing in areas outside the 35 largest metropolitan areas were less likely to buy online than those who live in one of the 35 locales. This finding, Strand stated, "points to the fact that shopping online is as much about convenience and saving time as it is about having access to shopping opportunities."
Looking past the big picture, N/NR zeroed in on four mass e-tailers, three of which have a presence in the bricks-and-mortar world: walmart.com, target.com and sears.com. The fourth, amazon.com, continues to post a link with target.com (as Target does with Amazon).
Among those destinations in December, the Target and Wal-Mart sites drew the largest share of women transacting purchases, at 74.1% and 66.5% of the sites' purchasers, respectively. Target and Amazon drew the most affluent online shoppers, male and female. At target.com, 34.7% of those buying had an annual household income between $75,000 and $100,000 -- the largest slice of its purchasers. And at Amazon, 20.1% of purchasers had an annual household income between $100,000 and $150,000 -- the second-biggest share of its purchasers -- after those in the $50,000 to $75,000 range, who made 24.8% of the site's transactions in December.
Amazon's share of the affluent, Strand observed, serves as a reminder that the upper-income group likes a bargain (plus selection and convenience) as much as those in other income brackets.
Curiously, walmart.com is most compelling to shoppers with a household income of $50,000 to $75,000 annually, a group representing 35% of the site's purchasers in December, followed by those in the $75,000 to $100,000 bracket, representing 23.8%. Sears.com also found that the biggest share of its online customers in December had a household income between $50,000 and $75,000, or 23.9%, followed closely by the 21.1% with an income between $25,000 and $50,000. The Sears site had the smallest share of women purchasers in December, among the four studied by N/NR, at 52.4%.