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The changing face behind the mouse

By Arthur Goldstuck

If you own a large online media property in South Africa, chances are you are catering for more women than men.

A new research project commissioned by MSN in South Africa, and conducted by AC Nielsen, shows that, for the first time, more women than men are accessing media sites, by a ratio of 54.4% to 45.6% men. One possible reason is the fact that women have become more economically active in South Africa over the past decade. However, regional differences showed a massive swing in the urban areas of the Western Cape (58.3% women) and Kawzulu natal (59.9%).

These were the most interesting of a range of statistics drawn from an online survey of around 3200 Internet users. Since the respondents weren’t randomly sampled, but rather represented a self-selected sample of those web users willing to take part in an online survey, the results can’t be viewed as scientific, but nevertheless represents a clear picture of the trends shaping online usage patterns in South Africa.

For example, 60% of Internet users go to movies at least once a month, suggasting that the Internet user population is an ideal target market for driving increased cinema visits – or not, if you regard their habits as cast in stone. After all, 59% watch more than six hours TV a week, which is about as healthy a pattern away from couch potatohood as one could wish.

More than half of the respondents read the Sunday Times (51%), 37% read newspapers daily, and almost a quarter listen to 94.7 Highveld Stereo.

Almost a fifth work in large corporates with more than 1000 employees, while a large proportion (42.2%) work for small and medium businesses with up to 100 employees. More than half (51.7%) have purchased online, with the 25-34 age group being most willing to click and pay (57.8% of the online buyers), followed by the 35-44 age group (55.6%) and the old fogeys in the 45-54 age group (48%), indicating that the Internet is no longer only the playground of the young and experimental.

The bad news hidden in these bright starts, however, is that 39% of users make a purchase less than once a month, and 9.6% on average once a month, leaving a mere 3.7% of frequent (every week or two) online shoppers. What was that about women being shopping addicts?

The top reasons given for shopping online are fairly obvious:

* Convenience – 41.8%;
* Ability to research online – 37.2%;
* Competitive pricing – 18.5%.

More interesting is the response to the question of what will make people purchase more often:

* Free delivery – 29.9%;
* Better security – 14.3%;
* Relevant products – 12.6%.

Online purchases are predominantly made with credit cards (35.3%), with electronic funds transfer adding 4.1%, debit cards 4%, Icanonline another 3.5%. eBucks 2.4% and 1.6%. No surprise there: plastic remains the most effective online currency in the world today.

Arthur Goldstuck is editor of The Big Change and managing director of World Wide Worx, the leading independent technology and telecommunications research house. He can be contacted on

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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