Consumers Mix Buying and Research

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NEW YORK ( -- Although it hasn’t been a blockbuster holiday shopping season in the stores, online retailers are seeing a bustling 33% increase in the number of online visits.
Shoppers are doing more product and price research online before they go to bricks-and-mortar facilities to actually buy their holiday gifts.
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Traffic spike
During the week of Dec. 4, the most recent time period available, shoppers visited e-tailers 462.5 million times, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, up from 348.3 million times during that same week the prior year. The online spike is the result of shoppers doing research and comparing prices online before making a purchase, and from e-tailers pushing promotions, said Ken Cassar, analyst at online market research firm Nielsen/NetRatings, which monitors over 100 online retailers to gauge activity at shopping destinations over the holiday season.

“As the multi-channel retailers like Wal-Mart and Target elevate their game online, their customers have come to view their Web sites as valuable tools to help them decide what products to buy and what prices to pay for their products,” Mr. Cassar said. Electronic retailers are asking consumers in their advertising to go online to do research before coming in the stores.

Busy store reps
“This makes particular sense for a retailer like a Best Buy or Circuit City where the stores get so crowded that it’s hard for reps in-store to answer all the customers’ questions, so the better informed a customer is coming into the store, the better it is for them.”

Nielsen/NetRatings has seen more aggressive promotional efforts this year over last. “Every year we see free shipping ads, but this year it is more and more common to have free shipping [or reduced-price shipping] without hooks,” Mr. Cassar said. One example is Nordstrom, which is offering shipping for a flat fee no matter how much one buys.

Another aggressive promotion is’s assault on is not only offering 10% on all orders over $10, but is also giving customers 10% off the Amazon price on any product it also carries. “It’s not a friendly holiday season,” Mr. Cassar added.

The fastest-growing category was books/music/video, which increased in shopping visits 238% over the same week last year. Apparel ranked No. 2 with a growth of 38%. And, toys/video games, retail and consumer electronics each increased in visits 28%.

Since the first shopping week of the 2005 season -- the week ending Oct. 30 -- the category toys/video games climbed the fastest -- a jump of 149%. The flowers/gifts category leapt ahead 117% over the first week. Consumer electronics climbed 90%; jewelry increased 81%; and shopping comparison/portals grew 64%.

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