Online shopping booms in popularity

The number of people shopping online has jumped 40 per cent in the past two years, with nearly nine out of 10 (more than 85 per cent) of the world's web users logging on to buy, according to new research.

The most active web population is in South Korea, where 99 per cent of web users shop online, followed by the UK, at 97 per cent. In the past month alone, 76 per cent of UK shoppers have purchased from sites such as eBay and Amazon.

The findings, part of the latest Nielsen global online survey on internet shopping habits, polled 26,132 internet users from 48 markets across the world.

The research showed much of the world's population was now shopping online. "When the Nielsen company conducted its first global survey into internet shopping trends two years ago, approximately 10 per cent of the world's population (627 million) had shopped online," said Bruce Paul, vice president of customised research at Nielsen. "Within two years, this number has increased by approximately 40 per cent (to 875 million)."

In the UK, one out of four consumers has bought airline tickets online. Globally, travel is now the fourth most popular shopping category. "Travel is a category extremely suited to the internet due to the latter's ability to provide efficient access to an extremely wide range of comparable information," said Jonathan Carson, president of international at Nielsen online.

"Whilst certain areas of the travel industry were initially slow to utilise the benefits of the internet, it is now one of the undoubted success stories of online, playing an integral part in the arrangements and experience of today's traveller," he added.

Credit cards were by far the most common way to purchase online globally, claiming 60 per cent of transactions, with more than half using Visa. One in four used Paypal. UK consumers were more likely to use debit cards, with 59 per cent favouring their use over credit cards.

Worldwide, the most popular items bought over the internet are books, with 41 per cent of shoppers purchasing their reading material online, but the biggest increase (from 20 per cent to 36 per cent) has been in clothes, accessories and shoes.

"Some of the biggest buyers of books on the internet are from developing countries - China, Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt - indicating massive growth potential for online retailers that can specifically target these fast-growing markets," said Paul.

The online shopping market was dominated by eBay and Amazon, with the retailers holding a 65 per cent share in December 2007. This is no surprise, as the research said the 60 per cent of shoppers made most of their purchases from the same site.