January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Vive La Online Difference

New research from Ernst & Young highlights how differences in gender, age and income level impact the online retailing experience. In its online survey of 1,200 U.S. Internet users, men and women had quite varied responses when identifying their favorite Web sites and online shopping categories. According to the research, while both men and women selected Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and CDNow as their favorite sites, there is a "vast" difference in sites listed after these top three. Men favor sites that specialize in electronics,entertainment and home/office supplies, while women turn to sites that feature health and beauty products, apparel and e-greetings, says Ernst & Young.

Men's Favorite Sites	 Women's Favorite Sites
Amazon.com (55%)	 Amazon.com (49%)
BarnesandNoble.com (31%) BarnesandNoble.com (30%)
CDnow.com (30%)	         CDnow.com (24%)
Buy.com (25%)	         Etoys.com (21%)
Egghead.com (22%)	 Drugstore.com (20%)
Office Max (16%)	 JC Penney (18%)
Best Buy (15%)	         Buy.com (17%)
Office Depot (14%)	 Disney (17%)
Etoys.com (13%)	         PlanetRX.com (17%)
Reel.com (13%)	         BlueMountainArts.com (15%)

When asked to name their favorite online categories, both men and women selected computers, books and CDs in varying order. Following these three primary categories, however, the sexes diverge, says the report. Men lean to purchasing small consumer electronics, videos and air travel, while women prefer health and beauty sites, as well as toy and apparel sites, it claims.

Men's Favorite 	          Women's Favorite
Online Categories         Online Categories
Computers (76%)	          Books (64%)
CDs (60%)	          CDs (60%)
Books (59%)	          Computers (57%)
Small consumer 	          Health & beauty (42%)
electronics (44%)
Videos (38%)	          Toys (41%)
Air travel (34%)	  Women's clothing (39%)
Magazines (31%)	          Children's clothing (31%)
Men's clothing (29%)	  Videos (28%)
Toys (29%)	          Magazines (27%)
Hotel reservations (26%)  Small consumer electronics (26%)
Women's clothing (21%)	  Air travel (24%)
Health & beauty (19%)	  Flowers (21%)
Sporting goods (19%)	  Men's clothing (20%)

The research shows that more young people buy CDs and videos online. Some 70% of people age 29 and under bought CDs online vs. 60% of 30-49 year-olds and 52% of those 50 and over. Additionally, 40% of those under 29 bought videos vs. 32% of those 30-49 and 30% of those 50 and over.

When it comes to unplanned purchases, adults 60 years-of-age and older are least likely to be spontaneous online, says Ernst & Young. Some 88% of people under the age of 25 have made an unplanned purchase vs. only 60% of the 60-plus group. Adults over 60 also tend to stick to a few favorite sites. Those over 60 have made purchases from an average nine sites, while those under 25 have made purchases from an average 12 sites.

And as income goes up, says the study, so too do the number of online purchases. Some 61% of people making over $100,000 made 10 or more purchases online last year, while only 32% of people with household incomes under $30,000 made 10 or more purchases.

There was also a direct correlation between dollars spent online and household income. Some 80% of people making $100,000 or more are considered "heavy buyers,'' spending over $500 online in the past 12 months vs. only 29% of people making under $30,000, the report found.

Favorite categories of people making $100,000 or more were computers (73%), books (67%), air travel (55%) and small consumer electronics (47%). Favorite categories of people making under $30,000 were books (51%), CDs (59%), computers (65%), toys (29%) and videos (31%), says Ernst & Young.

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