Internet Shopping Experiencing Healthy Holiday Season

Shoppers continue to use the Internet to make purchases this holiday season, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, which reported a spike in holiday shopping during the second week in December.

The Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index, which measures home and work Web shopping in eight product categories, jumped 10 percent in the second week of December over the prior week and 78 percent since the beginning of this year’s holiday shopping season. While the 1999 season peaked with a 40 percent growth in the number of home shoppers, this year the number of shoppers has already risen 53 percent, setting a new record for the holiday season.

“Online holiday shopping got off to a late start this year, but has recovered with strong and consistent growth,” said Sean Kaldor, vice president of eCommerce at NetRatings. “In the last five weeks, holiday shopping growth has consistently exceeded last year’s results and the trend indicates that there is at least one more week of favorable growth ahead.”

A key attraction to shoppers this holiday season is established brick and mortar retailers who have moved online. Brick-and-mortar sites have grown 103 percent since the beginning of the season, gaining ground on pure-play e-tailers, which are up 77 percent.

“Brick and mortar sites are tapping into their large, established customer bases and leveraging their enormous promotional budgets to drive millions of shoppers online,” Kaldor said. “While late to e-commerce, these sites are winning their fare share of visitors and dollars.”


Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index
Week ending Dec. 10
Categories Percent Change
Over Previous Week
Percent Change
Over Week Ending 10/29
Apparel 24% 130%
Books/Music/Video 12% 49%
Computer hardware 10% 18%
Consumer Electronics 12% 111%
Specialty Gifts 2% 192%
Toys & Games -3% 130%
Value-Oriented Sites 5% 51%
Virtual Department Stores 12% 104%
Total 10% 78%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Research from Greenfield Online has found that women are doing an increasing amount of online shopping. For two quarters in a row, more women than men have made purchases online. Greenfield also found that the buying priorities are different for each of the sexes. Both sexes buy books — the leading item purchased online — at about the same rate, but then selections change. Clothing, while second among purchases by females, is sixth among men, for example.

For the quarter ending Sept. 30, women buyers outnumbered men by 2 percent, and the previous quarter by 4 percent. This shows that the online world now mirrors the offline world in which women dominate the retail shopping arena, according to Greenfield.

As for luring shoppers of either gender to the online stores, research by AdRelevance found that Amazon.com has been running holiday-themed ads totaling more than 500 million impressions each week since October. Amazon is focusing its holiday online ad efforts on direct marketing appeal, with 70 percent of the retailer’s top ten online ads touting free shipping. Amazon’s branding ads have taken only 750,000 impressions.

Amazon’s share of voice on the top five sites it advertises on increased to 20 percent this year, versus an average of five percent on its top five sites last season (Go.com, Altavista, MSN, Yahoo, and AOL.com) — suggesting that Amazon is making a concerted strategic effort to dominate on a carefully selected site list. Amazon is also now the number one advertiser on four of the top five sites it advertises on: MSN, AOL.com, Netscape and Juno, according to AdRelevance.

“With each passing week, it appears that Amazon is distancing itself from the pack by operating on all cylinders and employing a unique two-tiered branding and direct-marketing online advertising strategy,” said Charles Buchwalter, VP of media research for AdRelevance. “If their recent online ad campaigns pay off, Amazon will be well on its way to achieving single-company e-tail dominance — and their current strategies will serve as the standard for how to win big in the online world.”

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