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"Internet Use is Mainstream, If Not Mass Market" Momentum
(A Publication Exclusively for Clients and Friends of CDB Research & Consulting), Summer 1999

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Nearly 40 million American adults are now going online for their personal use or hobbies. These people are not very wealthy nor highly educated, but are fairly hard-core users, many going online daily. However, their confidence in the information posted on the Internet is not strong, and they worry about the security of their credit cards if they were to make a purchase.

The survey of 400 randomly selected households reveals that 15% of these adults go online at least once a month. The potential market is even larger, with 40% of all households reporting a personal computer in their homes or home offices, and three out of four of those having a modem (mainly 14.4 baud or higher).

Just as compelling as the number of people who are online is the frequency with which they are online. More than a third of these Internet travelers (36%) go online everyday, and eight out of ten (80%) do so at least twice a week. Some simple arithmetic reveals the enormity of opportunity for interactive marketers.

America Online is the most popular entrée to the Internet at home (31%), but Direct Internet Providers are growing (18%). At work, however, Microsoft Network is the most popular (21%), with Direct Internet Providers becoming more common (12%) there, too.

Most online users are doing so for personal use or hobbies (54%), but 28% use it for business or professional purposes. Thirteen percent use it for educational purposes. Regardless of the purpose for going online, these users employ all the major search engines - primarily Yahoo (74%). About half use Infoseek (48%), while Alta Vista

(43%), Excite, and Lycos (41% each) are used by similar proportions. In spite of the widespread use of all these search engines, Yahoo is seen as the most effective (41%). Fewer than 10% of these Internet users named any of the other search engines as being the most effective.

Online users are mostly men (69%) and Baby Boomers (44%). Surprisingly, these online users are not necessarily well educated, wealthy, or even employed. Nearly one in four has, at most, a high school education (23%) and a similar proportion is unemployed (these may be homemakers, students, retirees, or those who are in between jobs). The biggest surprise, however, is that nearly half (43%) have annual incomes of less than $45,000.

Given this flurry of activity, confidence in the reliability and safety of the Internet is low to modest. While half of these Internet users say the information posted there is reliable (40%) or very reliable (11%), most of the rest say it is only somewhat reliable (47%).

When it comes to making purchases online, most people are still wary. Sixty-two percent (62%) feel that their credit card security is very or somewhat unsafe when making a purchase over the Internet. Only 23% say it is safe or very safe.

Interactive marketers have a growing opportunity to access mainstream consumers, but their challenge is to improve confidence in the information posted and the security of credit card purchases.

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