Global Shopping Spree

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Around the world, cyber cash registers are ringing up sales.

All right, so the company Web site has been up and running for years and when it comes to e-commerce you pretty much know it all. What next? Maybe it's time for a language lesson. Start by learning how to say "add item to shopping cart" in Korean and a couple dozen other tongues used in countries around the globe, where Internet-related shopping is gaining on - and in some cases beating - the U.S.

On average, 27 percent of any given country's population has gone online in the past month, according to a study by market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres which polled nearly 32,000 people in 27 developed and developing countries. Ten percent of those worldwide surfers have made an online purchase in the last month, 13 percent have bought goods or services offline as a result of information found online, and 14 percent plan to buy online within the next 6 months. Korea boasts the largest percentage (67 percent) of Internet users who have, or will, shop online or offline based on information found in cyberspace. Italy and the U.S. round out the top three, with 65 percent and 64 percent of their online populations engaged in Internet shopping, respectively.

Authors of the report say too, that online users in countries with low Internet penetration, such as India and Indonesia, should not be overlooked. While only 10 percent of India's 1 billion residents are plugged in, and just 17 percent of them shop online, that's still about 17 million potential consumers. The authors also note that those who are logged on in countries with low Internet penetration are usually either early adopters or business professionals and academics - people who are likely to shop online soon after they begin using the technology. (In countries where there is relatively more widespread Internet access, like the U.S. and Norway, the vast majority of people online adopt technology gradually, and often need more online experience before attempting to shop.)

Of products purchased online around the world, books and music CDs are by far the most popular. Twenty-nine percent of all online shoppers worldwide have bought books, and 20 percent have bought music. PC software (11 percent), clothes (10 percent), and food (10 percent) are other popular items. Surprisingly, when it comes to the percentage of online shoppers who buy from a single category, the U.S. rarely shows up in the top five. For instance, the countries with the highest percentage of online shoppers who buy groceries are Hong Kong (32 percent), Australia (17 percent), Japan (12 percent), France (11 percent), and Korea (9 percent). Only 4 percent of America's online consumers buy food on the Web. Even books and music are purchased by a larger percentage of online shoppers in Europe than in America: 40 percent of Dutch shoppers buy music compared with 14 percent of Americans. Publishers should also take note that a print run in Flemish or French may pay off, since 53 percent of Belgian shoppers buy books online.

Many countries with lower than average online shopping rates plan on raising the ante in the future. In fact, while only 7 percent of Italians shop online today, 31 percent of the country's wired residents say that they intend to buy online in the next six months. How does one say "eat my cyber-dust" in Italian?

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