December 29, 2010, 12:46 PM

Online remains a big influencer of offline holiday season sales

Different peaks for web traffic and sales show how consumers research and buy.

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High web traffic doesn’t necessarily correlate to high sales for e-retailers. Holiday season traffic numbers released this week by Experian Hitwise, along with previously released sales data from comScore Inc., show differences between peak traffic volume days and peak sales days, findings that underscore the web’s role in influencing how consumers shop in bricks-and-mortar stores.

The day after Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as Black Friday, brought the highest volume of web traffic to the top 500 retail sites tracked by Experian Hitwise, a research firm that monitors web traffic. Thanksgiving Day and the following Monday, a day also known as Cyber Monday, took second and third place, respectively.

But those days weren’t the season’s peak web sales days, according to comScore, another firm that tracks consumer behavior online. Web retailers collected $648 million in sales on Black Friday, $407 million on Thanksgiving Day and $1.028 billion on Cyber Monday, according to comScore. ComScore says Cyber Monday was the peak sales day for online retailers this season, but Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day web sales, while up from corresponding day sales in 2009, came nowhere close to the number two or three spots. The second heaviest shopping day this season was Dec. 13 ($954 million), followed by Dec. 6 ($943 million).

While complete holiday sales data are still being calculated, it looks like Black Friday will turn out to be the number one day for sales at physical stores this holiday season. Retail stores took in $10.69 billion on Black Friday, according to Shoppertrak, a research firm that tracks retail sales. A Forrester Research report released earlier this year estimated that the web would influence 46% of total retail sales this year. The Experian Hitwise data show that consumers use the web to research products regardless of where they plan to buy.

“Consumers continue to use the Internet to research price and availability of products to purchase both online and in stores,” says Heather Dougherty, director of research at Experian Hitwise. “While many shoppers complete transactions online, searches for offline information such as store locators and printable coupons highlight cross-channel behavior.”

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