Global Web Penetration Up; Hurdles Remain

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The United Kingdom has the highest browse-to-purchase ratio of 14 key European countries, according to a Nielsen//NetRatings global report on Internet access and penetration.

Sixty-four percent of UK Internet users who browsed for information and prices about products and services made purchases online in the past six months, according to the report.

The report, which was released this month, examined Internet access and penetration in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. It found that more than 295 million people across 20 countries have Internet access from home PCs.

But while Internet use in Europe and Asia increases, marketers still face hurdles, said Sean Kaldor, vice president of e-commerce at Nielsen//NetRatings Global.

UK conversion rates are fairly high and the Internet influences purchasing decisions throughout Europe and Asia, but a significant number of the purchases aren't made online.

"Unlike the [United States] that has a bigger medium of online shoppers, in Europe they will have to do a mix of things to appeal [to shoppers] and direct marketers will realize they need to be more focused," Kaldor said. "They will have to use catalog and the phone to be successful. Things that work [in the United States] may not work in other countries."

Eighty-two million people in 14 European markets have access to the Internet from a home PC, the report said.

Twenty percent of households with Internet access are in the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. As a result, the report concluded that these three countries are worth watching in the coming months.

Access rates at work were lower than at home in most countries. In Switzerland, however, access rates at home and work were even. Usage rates tend to follow the same pattern as access, except again in Switzerland where the number of people who surf the Internet at work is greater than the number of those who do so at home.

Across four key Asian Pacific markets -- Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore -- about 37 million people have access to the Internet from home PCs.

In these countries online purchasing is more likely to occur in Australia and New Zealand. A quarter of adults age 16 and older in both countries have browsed the Internet for pricing or information on products and services. Slightly more than one in 10 Australians have then gone on to make purchases. In Singapore, only 14 percent of people age 16 and older have browsed the Internet for products, with only 4 percent making purchases.

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