Marketeers need to promote tangible uses of the internet before large numbers of home users will buy online.
Prospective users are also deterred because Web designers fail to make it simple enough to search for information, according to a study carried out by NOP.
The research company, which questioned 2,000 internet users in the UK, Germany and France, found that home users have no specific objective when exploring the internet, but do so mainly for general interest.
The findings indicated there was a lack of awareness of what the internet offers, and should prompt marketeers to show users how quick and easy it is to find and contact companies, view products and order them directly from home.
Retailers are not reaping the potential of the Web - not because consumers are unwilling to buy online, but because they often cannot find the right sites.
Lisa Page, research manager at NOP, said: 'People are less aware of retail sites than other industries. But the interesting point is if they do find a retail site, they are more likely to make a purchase than from sites in other sectors.'
The results also found that 83 per cent of users with more than three years' experience were twice as likely as novice counterparts to search for specific Website addresses, news or other information.
Ralph Averbuch, UK director of search engine supplier Yahoo, said: 'We are as guilty as the next person when it comes to providing a search facility because we are all trying to keep up with growing content.'
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