Who's Using the Internet in the USA!
and where are they buying?

By: Jeanne Harwood
Staff Writer

This  may come as a surprise to you that 51% of Americans who use the Internet do so to access local information such as news, entertainment listings, and local businesses. Of those surveyed by Find/SVP(1), 40% search for product information, 27 percent for investment data and 14% searched for online banking services. And they estimate that by the end of 1998, there will be 48 million people in the US searching on the Internet, which means over 24 million (18 million in 1998) will be searching for local merchants only.

Why are they shopping on the Net?

The most cited reason (multiple answers allowed) for using the Net for personal shopping was convenience (65%) followed by availability of vendor information (60%), no pressure from sales people (55%) and saving time (53%). And, 39% of those who surf the Net looking for products will also shop at your store.

What Sells, or more importantly, is anybody making money on the Net?

There are three reasons for having a Web site: 1) to do business; 2) to increase awareness in your company, products or services; 3) as a service to your customers. In a recent Reuters report (2) Forrester Research, of Cambridge, Massachusetts offered one of the most conservative estimates of the value of goods sold on the Net in 1997 - $2 billion. They predict it will hit $17 billion by 2001. In that same report, ActivMedia, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, estimates the value of goods sold by companies with a presence on the Net (not necessarily sold on-line) in 1997 will be worth $24 billion, and will reach $1 trillion by 2001.

How do they find your businesses?

Most purchasing decisions are the result of intentional searches, i.e., somebody is looking for gifts, or more specifically, for personalized gift items like a personalized growth chart.

One NJ-based company, SaleNews, Somerset, NJ (3) will help you take advantage of the Internet for sales notices, even if you don’t have a presence on the Net, or if you don’t even have an e-mail address. SaleNews offers advanced notice of sales ( to subscribers to their newslist. They use your database, or gather information for you from visitors to their site. You tell them about your sale and they send a notice to those folks who have shown an interest and are in your shopping area. Customers read the e-mail and click on the link to their site to obtain (clip) a coupon, which is tendered in your store. They give you a report of the number of customers who received your notice and the number who "clipped" your coupons. They are bringing the virtual world to your local market. And, you pay only when an announcement is made. A brilliant concept.

Another NJ-Based company, The Systems House, Clifton, NJ (4)  offers NetLine, a family of software products that will allow customers (either in a business-to-business or retail environment) to access your database without tying up your system or staff. Customers can view your product line, place orders over the Net and inquire on the status of orders. The Systems House can act as a service bureau for you, and transmit orders to your office via e-mail, fax or EDI. Or, you can obtain their system to link into your own back-office order processing system.

Obviously, the information that customers can obtain is protected.

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Last modified: November 08, 2002