October 20, 2011, 4:59 PM

Holiday bells ring for e-commerce

A 10% jump in e-commerce site traffic so far this autumn could signal healthy holidays.

Lead Photo

Heather Dougherty

A jump in traffic to top e-commerce sites so far this autumn should make online retailers feel optimistic about the holiday shopping season, says Heather Dougherty, director of research for Experian Hitwise, a research firm that measures online traffic.

In a webinar today, Experian Hitwise disclosed that in the four weeks ended Oct. 15, traffic to the 500 retail sites it tracks increased 10% compared with the same period a year ago. Experian provided no traffic figures.

Dougherty made no numerical projections for the 2011 holiday season but says traffic increased on peak shopping days year over year from 2009 to 2010. Experian’s Retail Index shows Thanksgiving site traffic increased 9% from 2009 to 2010, while traffic on the day after Thanksgiving rose 13% and traffic on the Monday following Thanksgiving was up 16%.

Experian Hitwise data reveal that larger retailers are snatching up most of the site traffic in the run-up to the holidays. Among the 500 tracked sites, Hitwise says the top 10 retailers attracted 39% of all visits for the four weeks ending Oct. 15. The top 25 accounted for 52% of traffic and the top 100 received 77%. The remaining 400 retailers collectively captured 23%.

Although the volume of traffic going to the larger retail sites may seem daunting to smaller e-commerce operators, Dougherty says not to count smaller retailers out. “There is lots of room for specialty retail,” she says.

The volume of promotional e-mail messages sent by retailers also has increased so far this autumn.

Experian CheetahMail, an e-mail services provider that like Hitwise is part of Experian plc, said this week that e-mail volume sent by multichannel retailers increased 17.6% year over year during the week of Sept. 30 to Oct. 6. E-mail sent by catalog companies was up 6.7%. (Experian did not break out data for web-only retailers.) Dougherty says that, based on last year’s results, retailers can expect e-mail marketing messages to spur the most transactions on the Monday following Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) and the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).  

Experian’s data also show that early season shoppers generally skew older, are relatively affluent and have money to spend.

Adults age 55 and older comprised 26% of the traffic to the tracked retail sites during the four weeks under review, and only 20% of all visitors to the tracked e-retail sites had household incomes below $30,000 a year. 65% of all visitors had solid credit scores of at least 701—the minimum score considered good by credit reporting agencies.  “These are the consumers with the most money and best credit, and they are more likely than the general online population to be visiting retail sites,” Dougherty says.

She says 29% of the recent traffic came from consumers with household incomes between $30,000 and $60,000, 27% from households in the $60,000 to $100,000 range, and 24% from households with annual incomes above $100,000.

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