Where Did We Shop Online in ’98?

The last minute rush to send electronic cards to friends and family helped drive traffic to sites in the Net Ratings’ Specialty retailer category up 80 percent in the days before Christmas. According to Net Ratings Holiday CommerceTrackTM rankings for the week ending December 24, the book/CD category held its No. 1 ranking with a 16 percent reach. The reach for Specialty products (cards, chocolate, perfume, etc.) was a close second at 15.8 percent.

Consistent with Net Ratings’ findings on the dominance of the Book/CD category is a survey of 1,022 Internet users by Zona Research and Intelliquest. Almost 75 percent of the purchases made by this group were for books, music, and videotapes. Nearly half of the purchases made by this group were for computer-related products.

Amazon.com led the Book/CD retailers, according to Net Ratings, with a 6.4 percent reach in the last week of holiday shopping. Blue Mountain Arts led the Specialty category and saw a 107 percent increase in visitors between the first week of holiday shopping (Nov. 27-Dec.3) and the last (Dec. 18-24).

Specialty retailer Fragrance Counter.com announced that more than 2.3 million visitors shopped at its site in the fourth quarter of 1998, compared to 651,000 visitors during fourth quarter 1997.

Amazon.com announced that its fourth quarter sales were approximately $250 million, more than three and one-half times 1997’s fourth quarter sales of $66 million. More than one million new customers shopped at Amazon from the time the company began its holiday season on Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, the company said. Holiday sales in 1998 were quadruple the company’s holiday sales from 1997. During the 1998 holiday season, Amazon.com shipped more than 7.5 million items — more than the company shipped during the entire year of 1997. Stretched end-to-end, the books, CDs, videos, and DVDs Amazon sold during the 1998 holiday season would stretch 101 miles.

Media Metrix found that overall visitation to online shopping sites dropped 22 percent during the week before Christmas compared to the previous week. The numbers for the last week before the holidays were still higher than average weekly traffic in November, Media Metrix said. During the last week, Media Metrix found visitation to toy sites was up 24 percent; visits to Book/CD sites were up 32 percent; apparel sites saw a 10 percent increase; and department store sites were up 20 percent.

Overall, Media Metrix found that toy and apparel sites experienced the most overall growth in unique visitors on a percentage basis during the four-week holiday shopping period. The number of unique visitors to shopping sites increased 25 percent during the four-week period leading to Christmas. To compare pre-holiday numbers with holiday crunch, see the table.

Using its cross-visitation tracking, Media Metrix found that the Book/CD category experienced the greatest cross-visitation during the holiday season. Nearly half of the Book/CD visitors went to department store sites (46 percent), toy sites (49 percent), and apparel sites (54 percent). The company also estimates that one million unique visitors went to five or more shopping sites in the four weeks preceding Christmas, and 20 percent of online shoppers visited at least three sites.

In order to drive traffic to their retail sites, many e-tailers advertised on the Web this season. Holiday advertising jumped from 20 percent of total Web advertising during the week of December 6 to 36 percent for the week of December 20, 1998, according to Net Ratings.

Rather than write about all of Net Ratings’ findings, we present the following tables:

Now that America Online has passed the 15 million member mark, it is worth noting where this group spent their money on the Web this holiday season. Research produced for AOL by the Internet Research Group found that mainstream computer products were the most popular destination on AOL’s shopping channel. The Toys, Kids, and Babies category held the No. 1 spot overall on the AOL shopping channel during November and December of 1998. Apparel, which was No. 1 last year, was No. 2 this year.

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