Holiday E-Commerce Shows Modest Increases

The final word from Jupiter Media Metrix is that, on average, 51.3 million unique visitors went to shopping sites each week during the 2001 holiday season (week ending Nov. 25 through week ending Dec. 23), up 50 percent compared to the 2000 holiday shopping season and up 95 percent versus 1999.

“With the holiday-buying season behind us, we’re left with one inescapable truth: the Internet has become an integral part of holiday shopping,” said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at Jupiter Media Metrix. “Unlike 2000, when online shopping started strong but then fell off, online shopping this year started strong and ended even stronger.”

Another trend that appeared during the 2000 shopping season but blossomed in 2001 was the dominance of offline brands as e-commerce destinations.

“We’ve been waiting for the inevitable dominance of the traditional retailers over their pure-play counterparts, and it appears that 2001 may have been the year when it finally happened,” said Ken Cassar, senior Jupiter Research analyst. “With a few exceptions such as Amazon, the dominant retailers that sell merchandise directly from their sites tend to be affiliated with brick-and-mortar stores and catalogs. In fact, traffic to the seven traditional retailers among the top 15 shopping sites for the entire 2001 shopping season increased 73 percent versus last year.”

The top three traditional retailers according to their average daily unique visitors each week over the 2001 holiday-shopping season were: Columbia House Sites with 598,000 average daily unique visitors; Toysrus with 515,000; and with 447,000.

Traffic to all shopping sites for the week following the holiday-shopping season (week ending Dec. 30, 2001) was down 9 percent compared to the season average, but the Jupiter Media Metrix Online Shopping Index — which aggregates Web visitors from both home and work to nearly 500 retail sites and 19 subcategories — was still up 61 percent compared to the same week last year.

On the spending side, the eSpending report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings found that $13.8 billion was spent during the eight weeks in November and December. According to the preliminary results, online spending grew 15 percent year-over-year, with consumers reporting that 13 percent of their holiday shopping budget was spent online. During the 2000 holiday season, Americans spent more than $12 billion online. Online spending in December 2001 increased 41 percent as compared to November 2001.

“Online holiday spending continued its growth, despite pressures from the slowing U.S. economy. However, the 15 percent increase is more modest than the higher gains experienced in seasons past,” said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research at Harris Interactive.

Holiday spending during the last two weeks in November and the first two weeks in December comprised 65 percent of the season’s total, marking more than $9 billion in revenue. Spending peaked during the first week of December, as more than one in five Internet users, or 20 percent, made a purchase online.

“Unlike traditional retailers who have the luxury of time and are able to sell to shoppers till the very last minute, e-commerce sites must move their products within a much shorter shopping season,” said Iventosch-James. “The steady stream of special sales and free shipping offers during the peak online shopping weeks attracted consumers and helped e-tailers achieve higher revenue growth.”

Overall customer satisfaction, a problem in past years, actually rose during the holiday season. Eighty-six percent of online shoppers surveyed for the eSpending report said they were satisfied with their experience. Of those surveyed, 24 percent said that they had a better experience shopping on the Web this season compared to last year.

“While 1999 was nearly a disaster for customer service online, most major problems had been addressed in 2000. With 15 percent spending growth this year, e-tailers were well prepared and able to deliver a consistent or even improved level of service in 2001,” said Sean Kaldor, vice president of analytical services at NetRatings. “The future of e-tailing will depend heavily upon how well merchants are able to maintain this consistent satisfaction level despite varying levels of spending growth and in the face of increasing demands for profit.”

Top 15 Holiday Season Shopping Sites, 2000 vs. 2001
Five-Week Average, Average Daily Unique Visitors in the U.S.
Home & Work
2000 2001
Rank Site Weeks 1-5
Rank Site Weeks 1-5
1. 2,459,000 1. 4,515,000
2. 1,583,000 2. 2,519,000
3. 1,391,000 3. 2,016,000
4. 538,000 4. 683,000
5. 511,000 5. 660,000
6. 510,000 6. 652,000
7. 446,000 7. Columbia House Sites 598,000
8. 370,000 8. 588,000
9. 320,000 9. 563,000
10. 316,000 10. ToysRUs 515,000
11. 310,000 11. 447,000
12. 297,000 12. 434,000
13. 285,000 13. 416,000
14. 284,000 14. 408,000
15. 283,000 15. 379,000
Source: Jupiter Media Metrix

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