Holiday Visits to Retail Sites Up 24 Percent Over 2003

In another indication of the growth of advertising and retail opportunities online this holiday season, U.S. visits to shopping Web sites accounted for 9.7 percent of all Internet visits in the week ending December 11. That figure represents a 24.1 percent increase over the same time period in 2003, according to the latest Hitwise report.

But in targeting different retail sectors, the top three search engines appear to outperform their rivals in certain online niches, said Bill Tancer, vice president of research at Hitwise.


US_Visits_to_Retail_Websites
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“While Google dominates overall referrals, it is important to note that the leading search engines vary in their strength to refer traffic to certain categories versus others,” Tancer said. “Marketers should carefully consider the nuances of each engine in order to maximize their search strategies.”

The report finds that Google sends a higher share of its traffic to Books; Sports and Fitness; and Music retailing sites. Yahoo Search, meanwhile, is stronger in sending shopping referrals to Video and Games; Automotive; and Classifieds sites. Lastly, MSN Search funnels a larger share of visitors to the Apparel and Accessories; House and Garden; and Appliances and Electronics categories.

The Fastest Growing Online Retail Sectors

Year-over-year, the fastest growing online retail category was Classifieds, which increased 134.4 percent in traffic over the same week in 2003. However, Tancer said the apparent surge in Classifieds traffic was largely due to Hitwise adding craigslist and other sites to the retail category from “community and chats” this year. Second was Automotive, which increased 26.7 percent. And third were Auction sites, which drew an increase of 14.2 percent. Categories that exhibited more modest year-over-year growth included Grocery and Alcohol (11.7 percent), Computers (10.7 percent), and House and Garden (9.8 percent).


Top Shopping Subcategories by Market Share of U.S. Visits to Total Shopping Category Period – Week Ending 12/11/04
Leading Retail Categories Market Share of Visits to Shopping & Classifieds Category % Growth Weekly (w/e 12/11/04 Compared to w/e 12/04/04) % Growth Yearly (w/e 12/11/04 Compared to w/e 12/13/03)
1. Auctions 35.48% – 0.37% + 14.23%
2. Department Stores 13.62% + 0.93% – 4.71%
3. Rewards & Directories 9.74% – 0.39% – 29.50%
4. Computers 7.13% + 3.69% + 10.73%
5. Apparel & Accessories 6.18% + 2.94% – 11.95%
6. Books 6.06% + 4.89% – 22.99%
7. Appliances & Electronics 5.45% + 0.43% – 1.14%
8. Video & Games 4.94% – 1.35% – 18.21%
9. House & Garden 4.51% – 5.07% + 9.77%
10. Automotive 3.33% – 0.82% + 26.74%
11. Sport & Fitness 3.06% + 3.24% + 1.17%
12. Toys & Hobbies 2.89% – 2.94% – 5.18%
13. Music 2.52% + 2.72% – 26.92%
14. Classifieds 2.18% – 4.43% + 134.44%
15. Flowers & Gifts 1.47% + 3.03% – 6.92%
16. Health & Beauty 1.33% – 7.00% – 7.35%
17. Office Supplies 0.82% – 12.27% – 8.09%
18. Grocery and Alcohol 0.78% + 14.57% +11.71%
Source: Hitwise Inc.

The top 15 online retailers that demonstrated the strongest year-over-year growth, meanwhile, included Publishers Clearing House, which increased traffic by 227.0 percent; Shopping.com, which increased 140.5 percent; and Dell USA, which drew 70.4 percent more traffic versus the same week in 2003. Other online retailers that posted significant growth included WalMart (22.7 percent); and eBay, by far the largest online retailer in terms of market share, which increased traffic by 17.9 percent.

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