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Study predicts Net shopping boom

A study finds that the percentage of those users who buy online will grow from 36 percent to almost 50 percent by the year 2002.

The number of consumers online is expected to boom by the year 2002, according to a study released today.

The study, conducted by International Data Corporation and Atlanta, Georgia-based ReleventKnowledge, found that the percentage of those users who buy online will grow from 36 percent to almost 50 percent, increasing spending from $4.3 billion by 1997 to more than $54 billion.

The report "Web Usage Trends 1998" looks at the demographic distribution of visitors to different sites defined by content or by usage.

At commerce sites, classified or auction, males 50 and older compose the largest group of viewers, making up 63 percent of total traffic. Another 23 percent of adult entertainment viewers maintain household incomes of $75,000 and above, while teenage girls' net surfing habits bear a closer resemblance to adult females than to teenage males in their surfing choices and habits.

The study also found that the population of Web users continues to be skewed towards males, who compose 56 percent of the Web audience. In comparison, 48 percent of the U.S. population are men.

RelevantKnowledge and IDC's "Web Usage Trends, 1998," also reveals that traffic to commerce sites cross all gender and age boundaries. Nearly a quarter of users who visit commerce sites have an income greater than $75,000, and about 23 percent of this group are college educated.

"The Web has reached critical mass," IDC's researcher Jill Frankle said in a statement. "Whether a company sells directly to consumers or not, it needs to recognize the Web as a 'bona fide' distribution channel."