Nearly all American women who had shopped online in the past 12 months had purchased at least one item online, indicating that retailers had overcome concerns about security, shipping, returns and other sticking points according to a Consumer Reports National Research Center report conducted for ShopSmart.

eMarketer Senior Analyst Jeffrey Grau notes that "as a group, women tend to be more cautious than men about online buying. But Web retailers are allaying many of their concerns through flexible return policies and visualization tools that show off merchandise."

The study also found about six in 10 female online shoppers made their actual purchases online.

Online Shopping Habits of US Female Internet Users, February 2007 (% of respondents)

Female online shoppers spent an average of 1.2 hours per week on the activity, and over half of the time devoted to shopping for non-grocery items in a typical week was online.

Some retail e-commerce categories were still a tough sell to women. Nearly a fifth of respondents said they would never consider buying food on the Web, and 14% said they would never buy clothes online.

Items that US Female Internet Users Will Not Buy Online, February 2007 (% of respondents)

Mr. Grau says the holdouts haven’t kept some of these product categories from flourishing.

"Despite the challenges of selling apparel and jewelry online," says Mr. Grau, "these product categories, along with home furnishings — all primarily shopped by women — are among the fastest-growing online retail categories as measured by sales."

So what gets women to search for products online?

A Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) study conducted in November and December 2006 by BIGResearch found women were swayed more than men by coupons and in-store promotions.

Media that Influence US Consumers to Start a Search for Merchandise Online, by Gender, November-December 2006 (% of respondents)

Mike Gatti of the RAMA said, "While search engine marketing continues to be a popular strategy, retailers should not lose sight of traditional advertising channels to promote products and services."

Via eMarketer