December 2, 2004, 12:00 AM

The new challenges that broadband presents

While the spread of broadband access to the home has been big news to e-retailers, a new report from MetaFacts puts broadband adoption into a broader perspective.

How retail a web site performs is being dictated more and more by how the shopper is accessing a site. And while the spread of broadband Internet access to the home has been big news to retailers who sell online and to the Internet industry as a whole, a new report from MetaFacts Inc. puts broadband adoption into a broader perspective. MetaFacts points out that it’s in 50% of Internet homes, but that it represents slightly more than a quarter of all U.S. households.

58% of U.S. home own a PC, MetaFacts reports, representing 64.3 million households. Virtually all of them are connected to the Internet; 47% via broadband. Those households represent 27% of all U.S. households.

Broadband access makes page downloads faster and allows retailers to put more on their web sites, but it also raises challenges in making sure that retailers are serving their customers properly. “Retailers have to know even more about their customers now and not just go for volume,” says Dan Ness, principal analyst for MetaFacts, and author of the report. “Broadband customers have lots of experience and are discriminating in what they look for online. This raises the ante in what they need and expect.”

Retailers will be faced with offering additional content, often content that narrowband users won’t be able to take advantage of. “Web sites are becoming almost like TV channels in fighting against each other for customers,” Ness says. “Their content will have to go beyond their core content. The experience is not just about buying any more; it’s quickly moving into the realm of making the experience enjoyable and entertaining.”

MetaFacts reports that affluent, traditional families are 53% more likely than the average American household to have broadband Internet connection. They are closely followed by affluent, young singles; affluent empty nesters and older single-income couples without children; double-income couple without children; working parents; and younger, mid-income empty nesters.

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