Visits to online shopping sites remained strong last week, up 45 percent from a year ago and 3 percent higher than the week before, according to a report released Thursday by Jupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq: JMXI).
“This week’s increase indicates that the momentum hasn’t let up,” Jupiter vice president of media research Charles Buchwalter said. “Online retailing continues to hold the interest of holiday shoppers.”
In all, Jupiter estimated that 51.7 million unique visitors clicked to e-commerce sites during the week ending December 2nd, well above the 35.6 million in the same week of the 2000 shopping season and up slightly from the 50.2 million visitors tracked during the last full week of November this year.
During that previous week, which included the Thanksgiving holiday, Jupiter found a 43 percent increase over 2000 shopping traffic levels.
Jupiter said the real test may be in the next two weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.
Online merchants have encouraged customers to shop early to help avoid the last-minute crush that helped make the 1999 holiday season a disaster for several e-tailers who could not fulfill all of their late orders in time for Christmas.
Already, several promotions designed by e-tailers to get shoppers buying early have lapsed, including a free shipping deal from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), which again ranked as the second-busiest shopping site behind only eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY).
“Next week will be critical for both consumers and retailers as we approach the deadline for Christmas orders with standard shipping rates,” Jupiter senior analyst Ken Cassar said.
Jupiter found a surge in visits to so-called comparison-shopping “bots” during the last week, a move it attributed to increased interest in bargain hunting.
Jupiter also found a clear distinction in shopping patterns between men and women, with men making up the bulk of traffic to computer sites such as TigerDirect.com, Dell.com (Nasdaq: DELL) and HP.com (NYSE: HWP), and women favoring apparel sites such OldNavy.com, Spiegel.com (Nasdaq: SPGLA) and JCPenney.com (NYSE: JCP).
Affluent shoppers — which Jupiter defines as those with household incomes over US$100,000 — favored apparel sites. Gap.com (NYSE: GPS), for instance, attracted the most affluent shoppers, with 36 percent of all visitors falling into that category. LLBean.com had 33 percent of its visitors in the affluent category.
Behind eBay and Amazon on the list of most-visited sites were BMGMusicService.com, Symantec.com and eBay’s fixed-price unit Half.com. Also in the top 10 were eShop.com, NetFlix.com, and Toysrus.com, which is operated by Amazon.