Thanksgiving Draws Big Shopping CrowdsOnline

US consumers are more receptive than ever to online shopping, motivated by the convenience, selection, and bargains, and the Thanksgiving holiday did plenty to prove this, according to Nielsen//NetRatings‘ Holiday E-Commerce Index. According to the index, large increases in visitors to online shopping sites were recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday, from Wednesday, Nov. 24, through Sunday, Nov. 28.

Toy stores saw an 86 percent increase in traffic during the holiday, with eToys edging out ToysRUs.com, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Visitors to toy sites tend to be female (56 percent compared to 45 percent of all holiday commerce surfers on Nov. 26), and tend to be young. Slightly more than 6 percent of the online toy shoppers were in the 2 to 11 year-old age group.

Data from Media Metrix show a 99 percent increase in traffic to toy sites when compared to Thanksgiving week 1998. Media Metrix, however, gives the edge to ToysRUs.com, surpassing eToys.

Top 5 Toy Sites
(Week ending Nov. 28, 1999)
Site Unique Visitors
ToysRUs.com 1,591
eToys.com 1,386
kbkids.com 577
toytime.com 302
Familywonder.com 190
Source: Media Metrix

Media Metrix also found that traffic to bricks-and-mortar sites has also increased 45 percent over last year, with ToysRUs.com surpassing Barnesandnoble.com as the leading site among brick-and-mortar sellers. Overall, Media Metrix found traffic to the top 10 e-commerce sites for the week of Thanksgiving this year was 28 percent grater in 1999 than it was 1998. Maintaining their positions as No. 1 and No. 2 were Amazon.com and eBay.com.

Apparel sites drew the week’s largest percentage of female visitors, with 65 percent of their shoppers being women, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. These were also the most popular sites with teenagers, drawing 105 percent more 12 to 17 year-olds than the average Web site. The 12 to 17 age group comprised 25 percent of audience traffic to apparel sites in the Nielsen//NetRatings index. While clothing sites drew the most female surfers, comparison shopping sites such as MySimon.com and CompareNet.com drew the greatest percentage of male shoppers, with 83 percent of their visitors being men.

Online malls performed well with shoppers new to the Internet, as well as with men. Men accounted for 62 percent of the surfers at online malls. The online mall at Yahoo performed the best, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Computer hardware and software sites saw mixed success, as many consumers may be waiting until after the first of the year to make these purchases, when Y2K fears will be behind them.

Shoppers may be buying online this year to ensure delivery for the holidays, according to Allen Weiner, vice president of analytical services at NetRatings.

“Shoppers are crowding online sites earlier this year against the fear that selection may not hold through the upcoming weeks,” Weiner said. “Cybershoppers are allowing extra time in case the virtual lines are too long at some of the popular sites. Given that Web consumers are shopping early and often, the online shopping season will end somewhere from five days to a week before Christmas Day.”

Precisely when Internet users shop online is of little concern to most e-tailers, as long as they spend. Research by Shop.org and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that e-tailer revenue will reach $9 billion for the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 of 1999.

To prepare for the rush, some e-tailers have increased server and fulfillment capacity by five times so they would not be caught unprepared during the holidays, the research found. Both revenue and orders are growing significantly faster than marketing and advertising spending, indicating that early investments in advertising may be paying dividends.

The Shop.org/BCG study also found that many online retailers expect to see a three to four-fold increase in sales this holiday season versus the same period last year, and plan to spend 40 percent of their total advertising and marketing budgets over the holidays.

Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index
Unique Audience by Category
Category Date Percent Increase
from 11/24 to 11/28
Wed. 11/24 Fri. 11/26 Sun. 11/28
Toys 400,323 732,363 743,155 85.6
Apparel 148,422 235,220 262,940 77.2
Malls 258,184 408,513 455,139 76.3
Gifts 59,187 86,235 88,281 49.2
Electronics 101,562 167,144 148,472 46.2
Books/Music/Video 1,052,446 1,340,488 1,485,842 41.2
Computer hardware 172,852 207,823 217,169 25.6
Auctions 1,396,860 1,410,719 1,578,800 13.0
Software 533,833 532,798 557,078 4.4
Total Unduplicated Audience 3,566,692 4,223,234 4,626,144 29.7
Note: This index comprises five representative sites for each category.
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

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