Nielsen//NetRatings, the Internet measurement service of Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings, Inc. announced that its Holiday E-Commerce Index declined 3.8 percent for the week ending December 19, suggesting that cybershoppers have finished making their purchases online almost a week before Christmas Day.
According to the index, December 12 was the busiest holiday shopping day to date.
“From the standpoint of timing, the Web holiday shopping season this year is tracking a few weeks earlier than the offline retail world,” said Peggy O’Neill, director and principal analyst at NetRatings, Inc. “Fearful of delivery logistics, surfers caused a noticeable drop in traffic the week before Christmas. Cybershoppers in 1999 tend not to be huge procrastinators.”
According to Nielsen//NetRatings, audience traffic to holiday e-commerce sites spiked immediately after Halloween, continued to grow quickly in November, and peaked in the week ending December 12. (See PowerPoint presentation.) Traffic then fell off in a number of key categories.
Gifts, Toys and Cybermalls Reveal Drops in Traffic
Last week, the categories of gifts, toys and online malls declined the most in audience traffic. While these sites still showed steady activity, they were lower from the week before (see Table 1).
“Enterprising sites are trying to combat the decrease in traffic by posting reassuring notices about their ability to deliver packages at the last minute or promoting online gift certificates instead,” said O’Neill.
Table 1 Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index Percent Change in Unique Audience as Compared to the Prior Week
Category % Change for Week Ending % Change for Week Ending
Dec. 12 Dec. 19
GIFTS 32.5% -20.9%
TOYS -0.8% -14.0%
MALLS 15.7% -12.2%
APPAREL -9.2% -8.5%
SOFTWARE -6.3% -4.4%
BOOKS/MUSIC/VIDEO 12.0% -3.4%
ELECTRONICS 10.5% 0.1%
AUCTIONS -5.1% 1.3%
COMPARISON 11.1% 4.0%
COMPUTER HARDWARE 0.1% 9.1%
TOTAL 3.4% -3.8%
Note: This index is comprised of five representative sites for each
category, and acts as a barometer for gauging the level of interest at
commerce sites during the holiday season. Source: Nielsen//NetRatings,
Computer Hardware, Auctions and Comparison Sites Show Gains
The number of visitors to computer hardware sites showed an increase (9.1%), but O’Neill notes that not all of that traffic should be attributed to shoppers. “Some of it is no doubt folks looking for Y2K information,” she said.
Auctions, which aren’t seasonal by nature, enjoyed a slight bump (1.3%) from the week before, while comparison sites showed a significant increase (4.0%). Shown to be popular with men, comparison sites last week drew 62 percent of their traffic from males.
“As retailers get better at reassuring cybershoppers of their fulfillment and delivery infrastructure, we expect to see traffic sustained at higher levels past December 12,” said O’Neill. “Online gift certificates and other last-minute solutions, which were more prominent this year, are expected to blossom next year as word gets out about them, and the Web will be more successful at drawing procrastinators.”
Nielsen//NetRatings, the audience measurement service from Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings, Inc., collects data from more than 38,000 panelists as they use the Internet at home. The Nielsen//NetRatings panel is the largest media research sample of at-home Internet users currently being measured in real time. Nielsen//NetRatings uses unique technology capable of measuring both Internet use and advertising to provide the most timely, accurate and comprehensive Internet usage data and advertising information in the industry. For more information, please visit [www.nielsen-netratings.com].