labels: marketing - general, e-business
32 per cent of Internet users are womennews
12 June 2006
Women are the critical factor when it comes to increasing sales, be it offline or online. By Dr.Subho Ray, president, Interrnet and Mobile Association of India.

One male dominated bastion is under serious threat! For long men have been the dominant users of internet, but not for much longer; women are catching up and catching up fast. Today, there are 12.32 million women users, accounting for 32 per cent of the internet population (of 38.5 million).

In two years, the online men-women ratio is expected to become 60:40. So with an estimated 100 million users by 2007-08, the number of women using the internet will be 40 million. This should be sufficient to make online marketers stand up and take notice.

Women online are typically young, tech-savvy, educated and with high disposable incomes. Take a look some of the figures thrown up by a recent survey of internet users and their shopping habits by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Cross Tab Marketing Services: 

  • Age: 39 per cent of women users were in the 26-35 age group, 33 per cent were between 18 and 25, and 21 per cent between 36 and 45. Only 6 per cent came from the 46-60 age group, and 1 per cent were aged 61+.
  • Education: 53 per cent had a graduate/ post-graduate degree, while 25 per cent had done professional courses. 2 per cent were educated up to SSC/HSC, while 13 per cent had done some college (including diploma), but weren't graduates.
  • Employment: 14 per cent of women users were junior executives, 15 per cent mid-level executives, 10 per cent senior executives, and 10 per cent self-employed/ professional category, which indicates high spending power, especially if one considers that a large portion are from two-income families. 6 per cent work as clerks or salespersons while another 6 per cent are officers/ supervisors.
  • Internet use: 24 per cent of the women used the Internet for more than 21 hours a week, 17 per cent for 11-20 hours, 29 per cent for 5-10 hours and 21 per cent women up to five hours a week. The longer the time they spend on the internet, more comfortable they are with the idea of transacting online.
  • Plastic ownership: 73 per cent of women users had an ATM card, 36 per cent owned credit cards and 41 per cent had debit cards, which indicates a high level of comfort with the latest banking and payment methods. As far as paying online goes, 14 per cent of women used credit cards, 10 per cent relied on debit cards and 8 per cent used both.

Not only are more and more women using the internet, they also play an important role in influencing family purchase decisions, whether offline or online. So online marketers must take the Women Power into account in their campaigns.

  The first step is to understand what women are using the Internet for. Key activities include: 

  • Email and chat: The study found that 96 per cent of women used email for personal use, while 44 per cent had made use of chat services. Since women are more likely to discuss and share their experiences with other people, there's an opportunity to do word-of-mouth online marketing. We found that 93 per cent of women shoppers recommended products and services that were offered online to their friends, relatives and acquaintances; 22 per cent did it very frequently, while 45 per cent made such recommendations frequently.
  • Search and research: 65 per cent of women used search engines for personal requisites, while 29 per cent used the Internet for personal research. Another study conducted by the IAMAI on window shoppers ('Cyber Window Shopper') found that an overwhelming 27 per cent of respondents overall did `window shopping' online without buying anything; 20 per cent bought a product offline after doing some online research on it. And 65 per cent of respondents found online shopping sites on search engines.
  • News: 51 per cent of women users look up news online.
  • Jobs: 55 per cent of women users used the internet to search for jobs.
  • Financial transactions: 11 per cent of women users participated in online auctions, 9 per cent did online stock trading, 12 per cent paid bills online, 24 per cent did online banking and 4 per cent used the Internet to make donations. It demonstrates a growing comfort with transacting online.
  • Online shopping: 22 per cent of women used the Internet to do online shopping. However, it's interesting to note that 71 per cent of those who bought jewellery online were male. So marketers shouldn't assume that just because there aren't so many women surfers, women's products won't be bought over the net.

Another IAMAI research has shown the products and services that women are referring to online. These include books (46 per cent), electronic gadgets (42 per cent), apparel/accessories (39 per cent), airline tickets (34 per cent) and so on.  

P2P recommendations on shopping by categories


Electronic Gadgets


Consumer Electronics
















Home Appliances




Hotel Booking


Tickets-Movie Tickets




Beauty Products




Health & Fitness Products


Home Tools & Products


Apparel-Gift Certificates




Sporting Goods




Security of online payments is a concern for some cautious shoppers. Some measures marketers could take include offering insurance, third-party guarantees, and educating customers about the safety of financial transactions. Considering how efficient and cost-effective word-of-mouth marketing is, online marketers should make full use of it. According to the IAMAI study, 31 per cent of respondents found an online shopping site through word of mouth, and 18 per cent of online shoppers did so precisely because of this reason.

The writing on the wall is clear: women will be the critical factor when it comes to increasing sales, be it offline or online. Marketers should target women in their online sales and communication channels. They can maximise ROI on their e-infrastructure by catering to this demographic, which is expected to hit 40 million users soon.


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32 per cent of Internet users are women