While traffic to online Web sites during the 2001 holiday season increased 50 percent over the previous year's, online holiday sales grew by just 15 percent, according to reports by two research firms.
In a report issued today, Jupiter Media Metrix said that on average, 51.3 million unique visitors went to online shopping sites each week during the 2001 holiday season, which encompassed the week ending November 25 to the week ending December 23. Online visitors were up 50 percent from the 34.2 million in 2000 and rose 95 percent over the 26.3 million unique visitors recorded in 1999. Unique visitors are the actual number of total users who visited a Web site or online property at least once in a given month.
"With the holiday buying season behind us, we're left with one inescapable truth: The Internet has become an integral part of holiday shopping," said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at Jupiter Media Metrix, in a statement. "Unlike 2000, when online shopping started strong but then fell off, online shopping this year started strong and ended even stronger."
Jupiter also said that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with an online presence received more traffic than pure-play Web sites.
"We've been waiting for the inevitable dominance of the traditional retailers over their pure-play counterparts, and it appears that 2001 may have been the year when it finally happened," said Ken Cassar, a senior Jupiter analyst, in the statement. "With a few exceptions such as Amazon, the dominant retailers that sell merchandise directly from their sites tend to be affiliated with brick-and-mortar stores and catalogs."
Cassar said traffic to the seven brick-and-mortar retailers among the top 15 shopping sites for the entire 2001 shopping season increased 73 percent compared with last year.
Online holiday sales climbed to US$13.8 billion, a 15 percent increase over last year's figure of $12 billion, which includes online travel purchases, according to the "e-Spending" report issued today by New York-based The Goldman Sachs Group, polling firm Harris Interactive and market research firm Nielsen/NetRatings, which is in the process of buying Jupiter. The report comprises eight weeks, from the week ending Nov. 9, 2001, to the week ending Dec. 28, 2001.
"Online holiday spending continued its growth, despite pressures from the slowing U.S. economy. However, the 15 percent increase is more modest than the higher gains experienced in seasons past," said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research at Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive, in a statement (download .pdf).
Gene Alvarez, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc., said the fact that online sales didn't increase as much as overall traffic could indicate that people were using the Web as an investigative tool and then made their purchases off-line.
New York-based Nielson/NetRatings said overall customer satisfaction rose during the 2001 holiday season. According to the report, 86 percent of online shoppers surveyed said they were satisfied with their experiences, and 24 percent said they had a better experience shopping on the Web than they did the previous.
David Taylor, an analyst at Robert Frances Group Inc. in Westport, Conn., said the uptick in sales indicates that overall, people are more comfortable shopping online than they have been in the past.
Taylor said he didn't think the increase in online sales had anything to do with the events of Sept. 11 and people's fears about terrorism.