American and British companies have embraced the internet as part of their business operations, including marketing and CRM, far more than their counterparts elsewhere, judging by a new report from Taylor Nelson Sofres Information Technology.

Around 93% of US and 86% of UK firms use the web for dealing with customers (marketing, customer relationship management, sales or order fulfilment), ahead of Denmark (75%), Singapore (61%), Japan (60%) and France (36%).

Marketing alone shows even greater divergence between the six surveyed nations. Some 73% of firms both in the US and UK use the internet for this purpose, compared with 59% in Denmark, 57% in Singapore, 28% in Japan and just 9% in France.

America also leads in online internal activities, with 79% of companies using the web for training, knowledge management, employee schedule management or supply chain management. In Britain it is 59%; Singapore 34%; France 29%; Japan 27%; and Denmark 25%.

Email is by far the most widespread online activity, used by 80% or more of companies in all countries. The survey mentioned ten ways in which the web could be applied, of which British and American firms on average used five, while the remaining quartet employed only two to three.

Such figures reflect heavier investment in e-solutions by US and UK firms in recent years. However, this seems set to change - 63% of American companies and 66% of their British counterparts plan to cut their web expenditure in the coming year. In contrast, 56% and 61% of French and Japanese firms (respectively) intend to raise spend.

"In Japan, and to some extent in France too, face-to-face contact continues to be extremely important and the more impersonal approach of an online transaction may still not be considered to be a satisfactory way of conducting business," commented Chandra Chaterji, senior vp of TNSIT.

"Nonetheless, there seems to be a realisation in markets like Japan, France and elsewhere that investment in e-solutions has lagged behind that in some other major economies and there is a need to start exploring the full potential of online applications to businesses in the future."

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; Taylor Nelson Sofres; additional content by WARC staff