Broadband Boosts Online Spending: Survey

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Consumers who switch from narrowband Internet access to broadband tend to spend more time online overall and also shop more via the Web, according to results of a usage study released last week by Excite@Home Corp.

More than 73 percent of respondents to a national survey of 587 cable-modem and digital subscriber line users said they regularly buy products over the Internet. Of those, 65 percent had made a purchase within the past month.

Forty-six percent of broadband subscribers shop for electronics, computer equipment or software online. Only 29 percent of those consumers shopped for similar products before they switched to broadband connection.

"Shopping online on a dial-up service is a very labor- intensive and time-consuming task," Excite@Home director of market strategy Seth Cohen said. "A primary advantage of broadband is the speed required for the completion of the task."

Also, "broadband also allows you to do much more comparison shopping," he said. Consumers that can visit three or four online shopping sites in the time it used to take to visit one are likely to ultimately find a better deal.

Certain product categories still tend to dominate online shopping, such as books, music and consumer-electronics hardware.

"I don't think we've reached the point where people buy products that you need to see and touch and feel," Cohen said.

That might change somewhat once online retailers are able to show clothing from multiple angles and in close enough detail that shoppers can examine the weave, for example. But for now, "most of the sites are optimized for narrowband" because 90 percent of users are still employing dial-up modems, noted Cohen.

Consumers in the broadband survey were asked about their rate of technology adoption, including whether their peers view them as new-technology experts; how quickly they subscribed to broadband once it was made available to them; and how their online habits changed after they started using high-speed service.

In usage studies 18 months ago, early adopters tended to use their service about 20 hours per week, Cohen said. Weekly online usage average has gone down to about 13 hours for Excite@Home subscribers, "which indicates we're getting more mainstream customers."

On average, DSL customers still tend to spend a little more time online than cable-modem customers, Cohen said. Those numbers likely indicate that DSL is still attracting more early adopters than mainstream customers.

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