Consumer eCommerce Went Mainstream in Europe in 1999, Says IDC

COPENHAGEN, January 12, 2000 — According to a new study by International Data Corporation (IDC), Internet penetration in Europe exploded during 1999. At the threshold of the new millennium, one out of every four Western Europeans reported to have used the Internet in the previous three months. Even more significant still, 5% of the total adult population claimed to have purchased online in the same time period.

"For the first time we are now seeing a significant portion of the European population buying online," said Stefan Elmer, Internet analyst at IDC EMEA. "Even though many people are buying on an experimental basis — maybe trying it out for the first time — they represent a substantial customer base that will enable European consumer ecommerce to really take off in the coming year or two."

Further Findings

— More and more women are logging on to the Internet. On average, 41% of European Internet users are women, but compared to one year ago, this share has increased by 5%. IDC expects the development to continue – as many European women as men will be surfing the Web by 2001.

— Only one in four Internet users reported to be using the Web for half an hour a day or more. Compared to other media, such as television and newspapers, this is a relatively modest consumption level. "Europe seems to be developing a different online culture than the United States, with more focused Internet usage and less spontaneous surfing," Elmer said. "One of the reasons for this is, despite the free ISPs, the European Internet users incur relatively high telecom charges."

— The study also found the primary reason for not buying on the Internet is the perceived risk of credit card fraud. Mistrust of online shops was also a significant factor. Surprisingly, people care less about price and delivery times when buying online. "Many products and services on the Internet are not priced any lower than in the normal shops, and it takes several days for products to arrive with the mail. According to our study, people are not very concerned with these facts. Instead they worry about having their credit card abused, even though the risk is minimal," Elmer said.

— The growth in the number of buyers at the European level is very much linked to the fact that ecommerce has now spread from the smaller Nordic countries to the large Northern and Central European economies. Germany and the United Kingdom have experienced tremendous growth rates in terms of Internet buying during 1999 and currently account for more than half of all European Internet buyers.

These findings are applicable to the whole of Europe, but as indicated, some countries are much further ahead than others. Internet use ranges from 58% in Sweden, the most advanced country, to 16% in France, the European laggard in terms of Internet penetration. Also in terms of Internet buying, countries differ significantly. As much as 11% of the British adult (15+) population said they have purchased online in the last three months (26% of Internet users), while only 1-2% had done this in Spain.

An IDC Consumer Survey: European Internet and eCommerce — Ready for 2000? (IDC #I02FP) provides a comprehensive view of Internet usage and online purchasing patterns in Western Europe. It is based on a fall 1999 survey of 10,600 households in the 12 largest European Internet markets (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, and Austria). This report is available to purchase from your local IDC office.

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A presentation based upon IDC's new report includes results from this study including demographic information, purchasing information and computer usage versus Internet usage. This document is available to download, at no charge, from

About IDC

IDC delivers dependable, relevant, and high-impact data and insight on information technology to help organizations make sound business and technology decisions. IDC forecasts worldwide IT markets and technology trends and analyzes IT products and vendors, using a combination of rigorous primary research and in-depth competitive analysis. IDC is committed to providing global research with local content through more than 500 analysts in 42 countries worldwide. IDC's customers comprise the world's leading IT suppliers, IT organizations, and the financial community. Additional information can be found at

IDC is a division of International Data Group, the world's leading IT media, research, and exposition company.

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