March 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Fewer consumers are newcomers to online shopping, Forrester says

9% of online shoppers had less than a year’s experience shopping at web sites last year, down from 16% in 2006, reports Forrester Research.

Now that 74% of U.S. consumers say they have shopped online, newcomers make up a steadily shrinking share of web shoppers, Forrester Research reports.

Only 9% of online shoppers had less than a year’s experience shopping at web sites in a survey Forrester conducted last year, down from 16% in 2006. In the same survey, 32% of consumers had seven or more years of online shopping experience, up from 16% the year before, Forrester reports this month in “Web Buyers-And Their Expectations-Grow Up.”

Experienced web buyers are more likely to be male, have higher incomes and are slightly older than newcomers. 55% of consumers with less than a year shopping online were female, their mean age was 42 and household income $61,900. Only 41% of online shopping veterans were female, their mean age was 45 and household income $95,300.

Those with seven or more years of online buying experience shop more heavily on the web, spending $1,020 in the previous three months versus $330 for newcomers. They are also more likely to start their shopping research at a search engine (29%) than those with a year or less of shopping online (14%). “One interpretation of these contrasting research styles is that experienced web buyers capitalize on search engines’ ability to uncover the lowest price, while new web buyers treat the online shopping experience as if they were at the mall, heading straight to their desired retailer,” write Forrester analysts Carrie Johnson and Peter Hult in the report.

The Forrester analysts conclude that online retailers’ efforts must shift from customer acquisition to retention, as there are fewer online newcomers to woo. They also note that newcomers are more concerned than online veterans about payment security and the privacy of their personal information. To address those concerns, online merchants should explain their privacy policies when asking for personal information and consider offering alternative payment systems like PayPal and Google Checkout that allow consumers to shop at many merchants while providing personal information only to a single entity.

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