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Usage Patterns and Demographics

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Total Online Population (000's) in 2012: 52,731
Percentage of Population Online in 2012: 84.1%


There were 52,731,209 internet users in the UK (representing 84.1% of the population) in mid-year 2012 (June 30, 2012), according to Internet World Stats. (Internet World Stats, October 2012)

33 million adults accessed the internet every day in 2012 in the UK, more than double the 2006 figure of 16 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Approximately 87% of adults aged between 16 and 24, used social networking sites in 2012, compared to 48% of all adults. Telephone or video calls over the internet were made by 32% of adults in 2012, double the 2009 estimate of 16%, and four times higher than the 2007 estimate of 8%. (Office of National Statistics, February 2013)

When it comes to technology, affluent consumers in the UK are typically at the front of the queue. And this "early adopter" behavior tends to lead to earlier market penetration and advanced levels of usage, according to an eMarketer report, ‘UK Affluents: Definitely Digital, but Hard to Target'.

In 2012, data from the UK's Office of Communications (Ofcom) indicated that affluents spent an average 21 hours per week using the internet. This was well above the next most engaged socioeconomic demographic. But not only are UK affluents big users of digital media, they are also wary of it, as illustrated by a lower-than-expected level of engagement with social media. Essentially, affluents are more aware than most of the pitfalls associated with certain online channels.

Weekly time spent online by UK internet users, by socioeconomic statis and access location, November 2012:
- AB: 21.0 hours
- C1: 16.5 hours
- C2: 13.3 hours
- DE: 14.3 hours
TOTAL: 16.8 hours

Those in the upper-middle and middle class (the AB group, according to the UK's National Readership Survey) uses the internet for extremely varied purposes, with communication coming out on top: 92% of affluents took part in this activity at least once a week, a higher percentage than any other socioeconomic group, according to a survey by Ofcom. One activity that this group performed far more regularly than other groups was online transactions, with 61% of affluents carrying out such transactions at least once per week.

It seems, then, that this group is happy to bring its financial dealings into the online world. But in terms of ecommerce specifically, what are affluents' digital spending habits? One such habit that seems prevalent among this demographic is a high reliance on user reviews. An October 2012 study from Ipsos OTX and Ipsos Global @dvisor found that while internet users in Great Britain indexed highly for this across the board, with 81% of internet users saying that online reviews helped them with purchase decisions, that figure was even more remarkable among "high-income" individuals, at 88%.

Smart mobile devices are another digital technology UK affluents have taken up quickly. According to Ofcom data, in terms of smartphones, the figure for affluents was 62%, above all other segments. And tablets have also seen especially high uptake among affluents, although that disparity may close as more mini tablets come to market. (eMarketer, May 2013)

There were 41.99 million adults in the UK who had ever used the internet by the end of 2011 Q4, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This represents 83.5% of the adult population.

The 8.20 million adults who had never used it represents 16.3% of the adult population. There was a decrease of 224,000 adults who had never used the internet since 2011 Q3, following a decrease of 299,000 between Q2 and Q3. 

Internet use is linked to various socio-economic and demographic characteristics, such as age, disability, location and earnings. Adults who were less likely to have used the internet included the over 65s, the widowed and those with a disability. (Office for National Statistics, February 2012)

74.2% of the UK's population (nearly 47 million people) will go online at least once per month in 2012, primarily from home, but they will be using an expanded range of devices while there, most notably smartphones and tablets, according to eMarketer.

UK internet users and penetration, 2011-2016:
- 2011: 45.5 million (72.6% of population)
- 2012: 46.8 million (74.2%)
- 2013: 48.0 million (75.7%)
- 2014: 49.0 million (76.9%)
- 2015: 49.9 million (77.9%)
- 2016: 50.4 million (78.2%)

(eMarketer, April 2012)

11% of UK citizens have never used the internet, despite its prominence in the business and consumer worlds, according to research from the European Commission. The figure is down from 29% in 2006, but still underlines the scale of the work facing organisations like Race Online 2012 to get more of the UK population connected.

The proportion of households online increased from 63% in 2006 to 85% in 2011. However, 17% of these homes are still using basic dial-up internet services rather than broadband connections, suggesting that superfast, always-on services have not become a "must-have" for all UK citizens.

Eurostat also revealed that the number of UK firms using mobile internet connections rose sharply in 2011 as the need for constant connectivity became paramount. (ClickZ, December 2011)

Of Europe's 372 million unique visitors, the United Kingdom accounted for 37.3 million unique visitors during August 2011, according to comScore. The United Kingdom showed the highest engagement with users spending an average of nearly 35 hours online in the past month (up 1.5 hours from the previous month), consuming 3,205 pages online. (comScore, October 2011)

Around three quarters (73%) of UK adults used the internet in 2009, up from two-thirds (63%) in 2007, according to Ofcom's Media Literacy reports, which reveal the UK's media consumption habits and attitudes.

Adults in Scotland are the biggest home users of the internet (10.6 hours per week), with adults in England logging on from home 8.3 hours per week , those in Wales 6.8 hours per week and adults in Northern Ireland using the internet at home the least at 6.5 hours per week. (Ofcom, May 2010)

The proportion of the British population with access to the internet has grown from 73.92% in December 2009 to 75.99% in March 2010, according to an IMRG report prepared by the British Population Survey (BPS). (IMRG, April 2010)


The majority of UK adults in all age groups, apart from the group of adults aged 75 or more, had used the internet in the second quarter of 2011, according to the ONS Internet Access Quarterly Update 2011 Q2 derived from data collected by the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The largest proportion of internet users was in the 16 to 24 age group, at 98.8%. This represented 7.19 million people. Only 64,000 adults in this youngest age group had never used the Internet. (Office for National Statistics, August 2011)

Digital Media


86% of the UK internet population visit a video site at least once a month. In September 2011 there were 785 million visits to video sites from the UK, while the average internet user makes 18 visits to video websites a month, according to an Experian Hitwise white paper "Online video: bringing social media to life". UK internet users spend 240 million hours every month watching online video content. (Experian Hitwise, October 2011)

UK internet users spend 240 million hours every month watching online video content, according to Experian Hitwise. In September 2011, the UK internet population made over 785 million visits to online video websites, an increase of 36% year-on-year.

The majority of growth in this space has been driven by YouTube, now the third most popular website in the UK after Google UK and Facebook. YouTube dominates with 70% of all visits to online video sites. Every month, UK internet users spend 184 million hours watching YouTube content, with an average session time of 20 minutes.

Ranking second and third are the video-on-demand (VOD) services from BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, which now represent a significant percentage of overall internet visits to video sites. Niche sites have also seen a huge increase in traffic, including videozer (+853%), MSN Video (+913%) and Hulu (+123%). (eyefortravel, October 2011)

Video ads reached a greater proportion of internet users in the UK during November 2010 than in the US, according to comScore. Over 66% of UK users were exposed to at least one video ad over the course of the month compared with 48% of users in the US.

Video ad network SpotXchange enjoyed the greatest reach among U.K. users, followed by Google sites and Adconion's Joost network. As in the U.S., Google sites streamed by far the most video content over the course of the month, thanks largely to the popularity of YouTube. (ClickZ, January 2011)


Search Engines and Searches

UK internet users made 2.3 billion visits to search engines in January 2012, up from 2.2 billion in January 2011, according to Hitwise. Visits to search engines are up by 4.5% year-on-year with nearly 100 million more visits in January this year than last year. Google remained the steadfast market leader with over 90 per cent market share of UK search. Google Sites accounted for 90.64% of all searches conducted in the UK in January 2012.

Most popular search engines by share of UK searches, January 2012:
1. Google Sites: 90.64% share of searchers (+0.27% yearly change)
2. Microsfot Sites: 4.16% (-0.21%)
3. Yahoo! Sites: 2.98% (-0.54%)
4. Ask Sites: 1.80% (+0.43%)
5. Other: 0.43% (+0.04%)

Search now accounts for 12% of all UK internet visits in the UK. Search Engines are the third biggest category online after Entertainment and Social Media websites. As the UK continues to increase its visits to search engines websites are relying on search more as a channel to deliver traffic. 35% of all visits online came from a search engine in January 2012, up from 34% in January 2011. (Hitwise Blog, February 2012)

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 June 2013 20:36