Do you want to know who’s looking at your Web site and clicking through your banner ads? He’s a male IT professional aged about 30, earning $30,000 a year and going online every day. But he’s starting to blur at the edges.
A four-day online survey of 668 users earlier this year - run on the Computerworld Web site and conducted by IT research group IDC - found that the profile of Internet users is changing. IDC also found that use of the Internet is starting to “normalise” across the population.
“The demographic of Internet usage is getting closer and closer to the general population,” says research manager Pat Pilcher. “It’s getting much more mainstream and that has important repercussions for businesses looking to use the Web.”
The growing numbers of business processes being done online has opened up Internet use to more than just “surfers”. While IT staff are regular users, large numbers of students are online, followed by the service industry, engineering and a lot of people who classify themselves as “other”, outside the hardcoded occupations of the survey.
“You just need to look at the age spread and the income differences to see how it’s changing,” says Pilcher. “It used to be an expensive process getting online, but flat rate ISP [internet service providers] charges have encouraged students, unemployed people, everyone to get online. As access devices evolve, I think that can only grow.”
And they use it intensively, too. Most users - 73.6% of them at home and 22.1% at work - access the Internet every day or more than once a day. “That’s good news for banner advertisers and for local sites. The Web’s becoming more relevant to a lot more people. Wait till mobile wireless access is widely available - it’ll grow and diversify,” says Pilcher.
Most users at the moment are in their 20s and 30s but increasing numbers of the very young and the elderly are showing an interest, too. “And the gender gap is closing,” says Pilcher, with 17.3% of respondents being female. “Women do tend - at the moment anyway - to be more socially focused and for the first time we’ve seen the use of email overtake Web browsing. For male users, browsing is still the more popular [choice].”
And ISPs had better watch out - while over 67% say their ISP is excellent or good, that leaves over 30% who say they’re just satisfactory, poor or very poor. “Given the competitive state of the market they’re going to have to make sure that satisfaction level is higher. Nearly 40% say they’d consider changing provider.”
And he cautions that they had better keep their prices low, as cost is likely to be the most significant factor in the ISP decision. “As end users become more mainstream and reflect New Zealand society, and broadband becomes available, the market’s going to be increasingly price sensitive. Users will demand low prices, and they’ll demand speed. Which will up the competitive ante considerably.”