Retailer Holiday Traffic Dominated by Search Engine Visits
Posted on January 20, 2014
2013 proved a banner year in terms of holiday retail spending, especially when it came to online shopping. Digital business analytics leader comScore found that holiday shoppers spent over $46.5 billion on online purchases between November 1 and December 31 of 2013.
This figure fell short of comScore's original estimate of $48.1 billion in online retail spending. Cyber Monday and the day after (December 2 and 3) proved to be two of the heaviest online spending days during that period, with a combined $3.15 billion spent.
According to a recent report, holiday shoppers are relying more than ever on search engines in order to find retail websites and the products they want to buy for the holiday season. Marketing services firm Experian recently found that over 40 percent of upstream traffic to the top 500 retail websites during the 2013 holiday season originated from search engines.
Despite making up a large percentage of traffic for the top retail leaders, upstream traffic for December 2013 was off by 13 percent compared to last year. According to Experian's data, shares of upstream traffic for rewards and directories were down by 16 percent while portal front pages suffered a 45 percent drop in upstream traffic share.
Meanwhile, upstream traffic for social networking platforms and message forums experienced a 39 percent jump in overall upstream traffic share. Shopping and classified websites, along with e-mail services, lifestyle and entertainment websites also saw positive increases in upstream traffic data.
Popular Product Search Terms
Throughout the holiday season, Experian conducted a comprehensive analysis of online product search term popularity. For 2013, the footwear brand "Uggs" held the number one spot for branded product search terms throughout the month of December. The recently introduced "Xbox One" gaming console claimed the number one spot throughout the Thanksgiving week and during Black Friday, but fell to the number three spot after Cyber Monday.
Experian also took a look at branded search terms with different variations on spelling. According to the marketing firm, Apple's "iPad" and its many permutations took the top share of searches shortly after Thanksgiving and maintained its lead throughout the new year. Both the "PS4" and "Xbox One" search terms took a sharp dip in search shares during the first week of December only to recover steadily towards the end of the month.
No Love for Coupons?
Despite record holiday traffic, not as many retail consumers sought out discount coupons as they did during the previous year. Experian's data showed an overall decline in searches for retailer specific coupons during the 2013 holiday season. Whereas searches for retailer specific coupons made up a 0.17 percent share of search clicks in 2012, they made up only 0.13 percent of shares for 2013.
The report does not go into how or why searches for retailer specific coupons declined during the holidays. One possible speculation involves the prevalence of online discounts that make it possible for consumers to save money on their purchases without specifically seeking retail coupons. Nevertheless, Kantar Media's Marx found that Target.com's coupon distribution page gained 109,200 average daily hits - the highest of all websites in the Marx study.
Changing Trends in Online Marketing
The recent drop in traffic from search engines from last year's figures is likely due to the increased visibility of Google's paid product listing ads. The prevalence of these ads is making it easier for consumers to quickly find retail sites offering their desired products, after which they are most likely to go directly to those websites instead of using search engines on subsequent visits.
Nevertheless, search engines remain an essential tool for small businesses to not only announce and expand their online presence, but also to help facilitate business by converting leads into new customers as well as retaining loyal customers.
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