It seems that women have suddenly discovered the internet, and
internet publishers and retailers have discovered women. In the last few
weeks, media companies have been busily putting together their online
offerings for the UK’s female web surfers, as the net shifts from being
a world of nerdy, male technophiles to a full-on consumer, commerce and
The Telegraph Group and Boots have joined forces to offer handbag.com,
which they claim is the first major UK internet service designed
exclusively for women. At the same time, IPC Magazines is developing a
dedicated women’s network as part of its IPC Electric online project.
Meanwhile, Associated New Media recently sold its stake in
soccernet.com, claiming that it wishes to focus resources on developing
websites for women: ANM is to launch the pounds 5 million
charlottestreet.com project this autumn.
So why the sudden interest? A recent analysis of Fletcher Research’s UK
Internet Monitor showed that there are now more teenage girls online
than there are boys. In fact, across UK users aged 24 or under, 57 per
cent are female. The split across all users is currently about 60:40 in
favour of men, as the male bias gets stronger in the older age
What’s really exciting web publishers and retailers alike is that women
make the majority of purchase decisions and are starting to make those
decisions via the internet. According to a new Which? Online survey, 10
per cent of UK internet users now describe themselves as regular online
shoppers. In 1998, consumer transactions valued pounds 314 million; by
2002 this is expected to reach pounds 6.8 billion.
There are around three-and-a-half million women online in the UK; within
five years there will be around 10.7 million (49 per cent), according to
CNET. As William Reeve, research director at Fletcher, says: ’The days
when UK High Street retailers could ignore the web on the grounds that
women are not online are over.’
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