January 19, 2012, 10:50 AM

Consumers shopped earlier in the holiday season

54% of consumers had a quarter of their shopping done before Thanksgiving weekend.

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An analysis of holiday site traffic and consumer survey data from Compete Inc. reveals that consumers increasingly shopped online this season and did so earlier than in years past. Compete, a research firm that tracks web traffic, highlighted its seasonal data in a webinar it hosted yesterday.

Based on a pre-holiday survey of more than 2,000 consumers, shoppers intended to spend 41% of their gift budgets online in 2011, up 24.2% from 33% a year ago. And lending credence to the Christmas creep theory that the holiday shopping season is starting earlier every year, the survey showed that 54% of consumers completed at least a quarter of their holiday shopping before the Friday following Thanksgiving, up from 49% who said the same a year ago.

Amazon.com, the world’s largest e-retailer and No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, saw its November traffic jump 23.0% year over year, from 78.4 million visits in November 2010 to 96.4 million in 2011, Compete says. Amazon’s traffic growth in December was markedly less, up 4.6% to 96.8 million from 92.5 in December 2010. Uyen Chand, senior associate for retail at Compete, says Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire tablet computer likely contributed to the retailer’s traffic spike in November, as did the retailer’s aggressive Black Friday Deals discount promotions that Amazon unveiled the first week of the month and continued promoting as Thanksgiving neared.  

Overall, traffic to retailers’ web sites grew significantly during select weeks of the holiday season. Visits to the retail sites tracked by Compete rose 16% from a year ago during the week following Thanksgiving, and 19% the week ahead of Christmas, the research firm says. The Monday following Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as Cyber Monday, was the largest day for online spending to date. E-retailers collected $1.25 billion in sales that day, according to comScore Inc., which tracks consumers’ online spending.

ComScore earlier this month said shoppers in the United States spent nearly $37.2 billion online during the 2011 holiday season, up 15% from the approximately $32.4 billion spent in 2010. The web measurement firm accounted for spending between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, and tracks online purchasing behavior of 2 million consumers.

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