Electronic commerce is more popular than home banking among Internet households, according to PSI Global of Tampa.

A PSI study showed that 60% of respondents use on-line services to buy products, compared with 27% who use on-line bill payment, banking, or investment services.

But 52% of people on-line said they expect to bank on-line within a year. Similar increases were indicated for bill payments and on-line investing.

The research firm contacted 1,238 on-line households, of which 821 said they had bought products or services over the Internet, made on-line bill payments or banking transactions, or executed a trade.

The share of U.S. households on-line-20%-was projected to double by 2000.

Respondents said they would do more on-line transactions if they could save money on purchases and benefit from limitations on fraud liability. They would also like to see a broader range of familiar merchant brands, security solutions, and payment options that do not require a credit card number. The appetite to spend on-line will grow, said Michael Weil, PSI Global's executive vice president for operations and interactive research, and aggressive marketers will reap the rewards.

"The most successful bank will be the most proactive in developing products that are easy to use," Mr. Weil said.

Most people buy on-line for the convenience. Two-thirds said they found it easier to shop on the Internet, and three out of 10 said they found lower prices.

The average on-line shopper bought eight products or services worth a total of $140 in the past six months. Software was by far the most popular on-line buy, accounting for 91% of purchases. Books and magazines (42%) and computer hardware (42%) came next.

On-line bill payers cite different reasons for their Web activity: 80% said they found it more convenient and time-saving, and 62% said on-line payments were less expensive than checks.

Those who bank over the Internet cited the ability to do business anytime and to save time as the top reasons. Two-thirds of PC banking users were attracted by free offers, raising concern that they may discontinue the service if charged.

PSI suggested the key to retaining customers is to tie PC banking into routine financial management, through either financial management software or Web-based budgeting tools.

On-line shopping is still hampered by security concerns, but many respondents also said they had no reason to buy or bank on-line. More incentives will be required to persuade them to do transactions on the Web.

One of the biggest barriers to on-line payments is lack of awareness. Half of those surveyed did not know whether their bank offered the feature or said their bank did not offer it; 40% voiced concern about access to personal information; and 33% said they do not believe it is secure.

PC banking customers voiced similar doubts, with 54% saying they did not know whether the service was available. Also, 38% cited privacy concerns. Some questioned why branch banking is free though PC banking often has a fee.

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