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Women surf, but are slow to shop

Women comprise nearly half the U.S. online population, but so far do comparatively little shopping. That's likely to change, analysts say.

While women now make up nearly half the online population, a recent study indicates that, so far, they are less likely than men to shop online.

The Intelliquest study found that while 15 percent of men age 16 and older had bought products online within the previous three months, only 8 percent of women had. The study had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

The study surveyed some 1,100 households during the first quarter of this year. It found that women comprise 47 percent of U.S. adults online.

According to Clay Ryder, an analyst at Zona Research, Intelliquest's analysis arm, said the study failed to detail why men are more likely to shop online than women. The survey found that men were more likely to be "power buyers" and less likely to be "cautious shoppers," but failed to explain the difference between the two terms.

Ryder cautioned against reading too much into the survey.

"It raises the question, but doesn't back up any assumption that you might want to make," Ryder said.

But Forrester Research analyst Kenneth Clemmer said Forrester's research has unveiled similar results and attributes them to the "the geek factor."

The Internet began as a techie, "geek" thing, and the early adopters of the Internet were mostly male, he said.

"The people who've been online the longest are male," Clemmer said. "The people most likely to shop online have been online the longest."

But as the Internet becomes more mainstream, gender differences in online shopping will diminish, he said, particularly as more products that appeal to women are sold online.

The Intelliquest survey found that about 40 percent of people in the United States over age 16--some 83.4 million people--are now online. The study also found that 27 percent of the total adult population had shopped for a product online over the three months surveyed and 11 percent bought a product online during that same time.

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