Women surpass men as e-shoppers during the holidays ; 2001 sees more e-commerce, and more online socializing

Women topped men in holiday online shopping – 58% of those who bought gifts online during the most recent shopping season were women. This is part of a broader story about advances in e-tailing as more people spent more money this year compared to last year. In all, close to 29 million people bought gifts online during the holiday season in 2001 and the average spent online was $392 per person. That is an increase from the approximately 20 million who bought gifts online last year and spent an average of $330.

At the same time, more people claimed to have saved time and money by purchasing goods online and fewer complained about or worried about the potential hassles of purchasing goods online.

Yet even as holiday shopping online was a growing phenomenon, significantly more online Americans used the Internet to socialize than to shop. More Internet users made holiday plans via email, downloaded craft ideas and recipes from the Web, and searched for spiritual information online than did anything connected to gift buying. Some 64% of online Americans used the Internet for social or spiritual activities, compared to 48% who used the Internet for gift ideas, price comparisons, or actual purchases.

But even this social phenomenon should be put in a larger context because Internet users were even more likely to use the phone and the mail system to make contact with others and exchange holiday greetings than they used the Internet to do so.

Americans did not much change their behavior during the holiday season, despite speculation they would avoid malls because of terrorist threats or use the postal system less because of anthrax threats. Tiny fractions of Americans cancelled trips or stayed away from malls because of their fear of terror attacks. And very few substituted email for holiday cards out of fear of using the U.S. postal system in the wake of scares about anthrax.

Overall, the entire population of e-shoppers continues to grow. Some 58% of Internet users have ever bought a product online, up from 51% last year at this time. That represents a jump of 11 million in the online shopping universe as it grew from 53 million adults in the holiday season in 2000 to 64 million this holiday season.

Fully one third of online holiday shoppers (32%) did at least some Internet gift buying while at work, up from 26% last year.