January 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

With only 338 days to Christmas, Hitwise offers tips for 2008 holidays

2008 will be a short, 4-week holiday season, putting pressure on e-retailers to make the most of the time. Web measurement firm Hitwise encourages retailers to work with comparison shopping engines and market heavily to younger women around Thanksgiving.

 

It’s not too soon for online merchants to start planning for the 2008 holiday season, and web measurement firm Hitwise says the just-completed holiday rush offers some valuable lessons.

Comparison shopping engines are worth the effort, Hitwise concludes in its newly released “Holiday 2007 Retail Recap Report.” Traffic to comparison sites was up 48% in December compared to last year, as a percentage of total U.S. Internet traffic, Hitwise says. The busiest days for those sites were the Monday after Thanksgiving, up 39%, and the Friday after Thanksgiving, up 47%.

Department store sites received the largest share of traffic from comparison shopping engines, 13.53%, followed by house and garden sites 5.95%, apparel and accessories 5.83%, appliances and electronics 5.33%, and sport and fitness 3.65%.

2008 will be a short holiday season, as Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 27 and Hanukkah on Dec. 21-as opposed to Dec. 4 in 2007-which means e-retailers will have to take advantage of every opportunity, Hitwise says.

Data from the 2007 season points to the growing importance of the days around Thanksgiving, when shoppers have come to expect big bargains. Traffic to a group of web sites featuring ads for sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, was up 51% over 2006 for the week ended Nov. 24, 2007, which included Thanksgiving.

“The main audience for the Black Friday advertisement web sites tends to be younger and female, so the messaging and promotions should be targeted toward this audience,” Hitwise suggests in its holiday recap report. 61% of visitors to Black Friday web sites for the four weeks ended Nov. 17 were female, Hitwise says.

Consumers are also increasingly using the term Cyber Monday for the Monday after Thanksgiving, as indicated by searches for the tem “cyber Monday” increasing 17% over the prior year for the week ended Dec. 1. Cyber Monday promotions will be more crucial during the shorter 2008 holiday season, Hitwise says. “Shoppers have become aware of the phrase and are seeking special promotions for that particular day which can help drive early sales,” the report says.

The three top sources of traffic to retail sites during the 2007 holiday season were search engines 29%, other shopping sites 28% and e-mail 10%, Hitwise report. The report also notes the emergence of a significant new category-social networking sites and forums-which produced 4% of the traffic to retail sites.

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