One in seven of UK public now use Net, says study

Eight million Britons – one in seven of the population – are now regular Web users, according to the latest wave of internetTrak research conducted by market researchers NOP for Ziff-Davis, Yahoo! and Dell.

Web use among adults has leapt to 7 million from 5.9 million six months ago, while 14- to 17-year-olds, excluded from the first internetTrak survey published earlier this year, account for another 1 million Web users, according to a telephone survey of more than 3,000 people.

Shelaine Green, European marketing director for Yahoo!, says although the Web audience remains male-biased, 40 per cent of new recruits to the medium are female, while penetration of Web use among 14- to 17-year-olds has now reached one in three of that age group.

Despite the gains made in the size of Britain’s online audience, the percentage of surfers shopping online has remained static at about 20 per cent, concedes Green.

But the number of people who claim they gather information on selected products on the Web before buying them – either online or offline – has risen from 2 million to 3.3 million in the past six months.

Many online businesses are failing to adequately deal with customers online by not responding promptly to e-mailed enquiries, according to a survey of top-ranking Websites by Jupiter Communications (www.jup.com).

Enquiries remain unanswered according to the report, which reveals that nearly half of the world’s top Websites took longer than five days to reply to e-mailed enquiries, never replied, or were not accessible by e-mail.

Retail shopping sites emerged as the most responsive of the categories examined in the report. But although just over half of e-mailed enquiries to retail sites were responded to within a day, one in five travel sites took more than three days or failed to reply at all.

According to Ken Allard, analyst with Jupiter, companies that fail to deal efficiently with e-mail enquiries risk being outmanoeuvred by online rivals. “Companies that delay responses instantly lose a significant degree of credibility.”

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