Surveys Show Strong German Web Growth

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Internet studies continue to proliferate across Europe as a host of research and marketing firms grind out data to guide e-tailers in exploiting opportunities.

The most encouraging news for U.S. Web merchants interested in entering Europe comes from Germany.

According to a study by Forsa, a Berlin-based society for social research and statistical analysis, 22.3 million Germans went online in January, up from 19.9 million in December.

For the first time, the study noted, more than one-third of Germans older than age 14 are online. Forsa expects another 4 million to be on the Internet over the next six months.

A survey published this month by Putz & Partner, a Hamburg management consulting firm, found that 17 percent of total sales at 350 German enterprises with an Internet presence came from e-business.

Matthias Richter, the author of the study, told a Hamburg press conference that he expected the percentage of e-commerce sales to reach 30 percent by 2003. German firms invest 2 percent of sales in e-commerce development.

Most of the money goes to marketing, service and distribution, he said. Small firms tend to get a higher return on investment than large companies. About 20 percent were already linked electronically to customers and suppliers, while another 30 percent planned to do so this year. Almost 25 percent used e-marketplaces to cut costs.

The Web had become a decisive competitive factor in German business, Richter said. Companies not yet on the Web will be the biggest losers if they do not get aboard this year.

The German branch of the global bank SHBC, Trinkaus & Burkhardt, published a study that found German Internet advertising doubled over the past year to $280 million. Forty-three percent of the online money went to the top three providers in Germany -- AOL, T-Online and Yahoo -- with the top 10 providers taking 70 percent of Web advertising.

NetValue, a French Internet research firm that opened in the United States last year, found that the number of French households with Internet access grew from 3 million in January 2000 to 4.71 million by the end of the year.

That puts France well ahead of Spain but behind the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavian countries in terms of Web penetration. The 3,553 members of NetValue's panel spent 6.2 hours a month online in December, compared with 4.7 hours in January 2000.

That's more hours than the British, NetValue said, but far behind the Spaniards, who averaged 8.7 hours a month online, and just behind the Germans at 6.8 hours.

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