Pulls More Holiday Shoppers; Overall Nov. Web Sales Up 22%

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- EBay.com is beginning to give e-commerce leader Amazon.com a run for the money this holiday season, according to a study issued Monday.

The auction-turned-general-merchandise site has dethroned Amazon.com as the top destination for online holiday shoppers during the important post-Thanksgiving week, according to the eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.

12 million
The study found that eBay had 12 million unique visitors, with Amazon in second place with 10.2 million. Yahoo! Shopping, meanwhile, placed third with nearly 7.4 million visitors. The fourth major competitor, MSN Shopping, had 3.4 million unique visitors. Walmart.com was fifth with 2.8 million.

However, in its core category of books, music, videos and DVDs, Amazon.com continued to dominate with a 35.2% share of purchases made, down somewhat from a 36.9% share in 2001. Competitor eBay, however, is making headway.

EBay more than doubled its share of sales in the category, jumping from a 4.6% share to 10.6% share, the survey found. Other

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share shifts involved barnesandnoble.com, the Web site for book retailer Barnes & Noble, which dropped from a 9.6% share to 8.8%. Among discount store competitors, Walmart.com, increased share to 2.8%, up from 1.6% the previous year, while Target.com increased share a scant 0.2%, from 0.4% in 2001.

Toy sales
In another important holiday selling category, toys, Amazon.com, along with partner Toys R Us, dropped share from 30.4% during the week after Thanksgiving last year to 26.5% this year. Walmart.com was the big winner in the category, jumping from a 3.2% share last year to 8.7% this year. Target.com, meanwhile, fell from a 4.6% share last year to 1.4% this year. EBay's share of the toy category stayed virtually flat at 15.4% this year vs. 16.9% last year.

"Amazon has a lot of challenges in defending against eBay" as well as the online presence of real-world powerhouses such as Wal-Mart Stores, said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research for Harris Interactive. She said Amazon.com has made a number of tactical shifts to confront the challenge from eBay, such as offering used books online.

Nov. online sales up 22%
Overall, Web shopping hit sales of $6.2 billion in November, up 22% from $5.1 billion in 2001. Much to the chagrin of online retailers, however, the survey found that they've been unable to shake Web surfers of the notion that the Web is a place for bargains. The survey found that 40% of shoppers surveyed in November said price was a key reason to go online instead of going to a store, while broader selection and the ability to compare prices also contributed.

"I am not very hopeful on the issue of price," said Ms. Iventosch-James, who noted Web shoppers are demanding free shipping when they decide to buy. "It's going to be very hard to change people's mindset," she added.

Free shipping to continue
However, she said some online retailers such as Amazon appear to have accepted the reality and are looking internally to see how to cut costs to continue to offer free shipping.

EBay this fall launched one of its biggest ad campaigns touting its wares in a humorous campaign featuring a doctored version of the 1948 Frank Sinatra song "I Did It My Way" that now has the lyrics "I did it eBay." The campaign is from advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, part of Omnicom Group.

Amazon's ad campaign, from independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., backs the ease of online shopping vs. shopping at the mall.

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