Cape Town - More than 85% of the world's online population has used the internet to make a purchase - increasing the market for online shopping by 40% in the past two years, according to the latest Nielsen Global Online Survey.
Globally, more than half of internet users have made at least one purchase online in the past month, according to Nielsen. In South Africa, almost a third of respondents have made purchases over the internet in the last month.
"The internet is no longer a niche technology - it is mass media and an utterly integral part of modern life. Almost no aspect of life remains untouched by online media. As our lives become more fractured and cluttered, it isn't surprising that consumers turn to the unrivalled convenience of the internet when it comes to researching and buying products," said Jonathan Carson, Nielsen Online's International President.
"When The Nielsen Company conducted its first global survey into internet shopping trends two years ago, approximately 10% of the world's population (627 million) had shopped online," said Bruce Paul, vice-president of customised research for Nielsens. "Within two years, this number has increased by approximately 40% (to 875 million)."
Among internet users, the highest percentage shopping online is found in South Korea, where 99% of those with internet access have used it to shop, followed by the UK (97%), Germany (97%), Japan (97%) with the US at 94%.
South Africans also shop online frequently - 73% with access to the internet have used it to make online purchases.
Globally, the most popular and purchased items over the internet are books (41% purchased in the past three months), clothing/accessories/shoes (36%), videos/DVDs/games (24%), airline tickets (24%) and electronic equipment (23%).
Undoubted success story
One in four global internet users bought DVDs/videos online in the last three months, with UK users topping the list (44%), followed by South Africans (38%).
DVD's, videos and games are the most popular online products that South Africans purchase. Clothing and accessory shopping is fairly popular in Europe, but only 10% of South Africans buy clothing online. Half of South African respondents (51%) use the internet to buy airline tickets.
"Travel is a category extremely suited to the internet due to the latter's ability to provide efficient access to an extremely wide range of comparable information. Whilst certain areas of the travel industry were initially slow to utilise the benefits of the internet, it is now one of the undoubted success stories of online, playing an integral part in the arrangements and experience of today's traveller," said Carson.
Credit cards are by far the most common method of payment - 60% of global online consumers used their credit card for a recent online purchase, while one in four online consumers chose PayPal.
Of those paying with a credit card, more than half (53%) used Visa. In South Africa, 82% of respondents use credit cards as their method of payment for online shopping, with 51% choosing Mastercard and 42% Visa.
According to Nielsen, online shoppers tend to stick to the shopping sites they are familiar with, with 60% saying they buy mostly from the same site.
"This shows the importance of capturing the tens of millions of new online shoppers as they make their first purchases on the internet. If shopping sites can capture them early, and create a positive shopping experience, they will likely capture their loyalty and their money," said Paul.
The survey, conducted from October to November 2007, polled 26 312 internet users in 48 markets and is representative of all internet users aged 15+.