Online Shopping Spikes on Black Friday

Traffic to retail sites was high on Black Friday; e-commerce spending spiked 42 percent over the day after Thanksgiving last year, according to research from comScore. Additional data from Nielsen//NetRatings and Hitwise show increases in visits to shopping sites for both purchase and research of gift items.

Reports from comScore find consumer online non-travel retail spending to be up 23 percent in the first 24 days of November over the same period last year. That’s $8.31 billion spent prior to Thanksgiving, compared to $6.75 billion in 2005. Black Friday spending grew 42 percent, over the same day last year, when online sales reached $434 million. Traffic to retail sites was great enough to cause outages as popular retailers like Wal-Mart.

Consumers went online to buy and to research products and prices. Visits to online shopping engines increased 21 percent on Black Friday compared to the average number of daily visits in November. experienced a triple-digit increase in visits over traffic levels for the prior three days.

Nielsen//NetRatings’ Holiday eShopping Index noticed a 12 percent uptick of online visits from home on Black Friday. While known as a big day for brick-and-mortar stores, the day racked up a unique audience of 19.2 million across the index’s 120 representative online retailers. Last year the unique audience was 17.2 million on the same day.

U.S. Product Categories by Unique Audience, November 17-24, 2006
Category Week-Over-Week Growth (%)
Consumer electronics 211
Apparel 117
Home and garden 87
Shopping comparison/portals 79
Beauty 78
Computer hardware/software 77
Toys/video games 51
Flowers and gifts 42
Retail 37
Books/music/video 23
Shoes 12
Jewelry N/A
Total 32
Source: Source: Nielsen//NetRatings, 2006

The fastest growing category was consumer electronics, with 211 percent growth from November 17 to November 24. Apparel (117 percent); home and garden (87 percent); shopping comparison and portals (79 percent); and beauty (78 percent) topped the list on category growth. The overall average unique audience to all categories was 32 percent for November 17 to November 24.

The top sites for unique audience were eBay,, Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy. The greatest week-over-week growth was experienced by Best Buy (316 percent), Circuit City (211 percent), Wal-Mart (191 percent), JC Penney (158 percent), and (155 percent).

Top U.S. Home Online Shopping Destinations by Unique Audience, Black Friday 2006
Site 11/17/2006
UA (000)
UA (000)
Growth (%)
eBay 6,423 7,454 16
Amazon 2,342 3,404 45
Wal-Mart 1,115 3,248 191
Target 1,096 2,267 107
Best Buy 406 1,691 316
Circuit City 367 1,140 211 Network 563 1,032 83
JC Penney 386 996 158 376 957 155
Sears 460 887 93
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings, 2006

A portion of e-commerce is accounted for by Web traffic, though reports show many of the visits are precursors to offline purchases. “We see many shoppers checking out Web sites for Black Friday sales and promotions before heading to the stores,” said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings in a statement.

Retail stores were mostly closed on Thanksgiving Day, though Hitwise observed an 11.8 percent increase in market share of visits to online retail sites over last year. The trend of online visits to retail continues to increase for the fourth year in a row. Thanksgiving Day traffic to retail was up 33.9 percent over the holiday in 2004. Black Friday on Hitwise’s radar was up only 2.7 percent over last year, according to the Hitwise Retail 100 Index.

The greatest market share of online retailers for Thanksgiving Day go to sites with brick-and-mortar counterparts. Wal-Mart earned 18.26 percent market share of visits to the 100 Web sites on the index. Best Buy (8.75 percent); (8.36 percent); Circuit City (6.98 percent); and (6.06 percent) topped the index.

Top U.S. Retail Web Sites by Visits, November 23, 2006
Rank Name Domain Market Share (%) Last Week Rank
1 Wal-Mart 18.26 1
2 Best Buy 8.75 4
3 8.36 2
4 Circuit City 6.98 5
5 Target 6.06 3
6 Sears 2.78 8
7 Toys ‘R’ Us (USA) 2.66 7
8 2.12 6
9 Kmart 1.80 12
10 JC Penney 1.78 9
11 Kohl’s 1.77 14
12 BizRate 1.42 11
13 1.41 10
14 The Home Depot 1.25 21
15 Macy’s 1.13 16
Note: The Hitwise Retail 100 Index does not include Web sites from the following categories: auctions, classifieds, computer manufacturers, relationship sales, reward point collecting, and home entertainment — music download, DVD, and video game rental.
Source: Hitwise, 2006

Traffic patterns suggest consumers spent time over the holiday researching where to find Black Friday deals. “The dominance of big-box retailers as top sites visited for November 23rd indicates that the Thanksgiving Day phenomenon is attributable to consumers researching sale offerings in advance of Black Friday,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, in a statement.

ComScore measures Web traffic and behaviors from a global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given the research firm permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior. Nielsen//NetRatings conducts Internet audience measurement from a panel-based and site-centric Internet audience measurement service. Hitwise applies a network-based approach to Internet measurement. Through relationships with ISPs around the world, it captures the anonymous online usage, search, and conversion behavior of 25 million Internet users.

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