With approximately 80% of all adults in the UK accessing the internet in Q1 2011, several questions are raised regarding not only who connects, but why.
The most popular activity in January 2011 was (unsurprisingly) sending and receiving emails, which is consistent with January 2010.
Even so, we find an increasing proportion of people using the internet to communicate through emails from the year before. The internet is also an increasingly important platform through which people not only source information regarding products and services they are thinking of buying (58%), but also purchase them directly (53%). This may, to a certain extent, explain the explosion of price comparison websites over the past couple of years, as they capitalise on these trends and take advantage of a growing and lucrative market. However, the 24% year-on-year decrease of grocery shopping seems slightly at odds with the overall popularity of online shopping, so it would be interesting to explore further what is causing this gap and what in particular is making less people shop for groceries through the internet.
Though social networking is more democratised than before, only 38% of adults who accessed the internet in the past three months did so in order to visit social networking sites and/or take part in discussion forums or blogs – interestingly, this is after a yoy increase of 15%. And though downloading and streaming films ranks quite low among other online activities (12%), it has increased by 50% from the year before. This is worth monitoring to see whether it will continue to increase at this rate or if it will soon reach a plateau and further to assess what impact, if any, this kind of activity is having/ will have on the cinema sector.
It is therefore the practical uses that appear to take precedence over leisure activities online – i.e. basic communication (emails), retail purchasing and finances are more important than networking, entertainment, dating etc, which come further down the list of priorities.
It would also be interesting to establish whether or not these online activities are supplementing or replacing their ‘offline’ equivalents and at what rate. It would be useful too to discern the remaining ‘other’ activities that 13% of the population use the internet for, which we are not yet capturing. Could this unravel some new and exciting trends for the sector and/or implications for consumers?