RealTime IT News

Online Shopping Getting Crowded

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, or 55 million people, are expected to visit online shopping sites from home this holiday season, says a newly released industry report. And for many, toy e-tailers will be their first destination.

All told, about 14 million more shoppers will be going online this year compared to last year, according to the report from Web measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

And the numbers are such that dot com e-tailers will face fierce competition for the hearts and wallets of all those online shoppers from leading off-line brick and mortar companies making their debut online during the holidays, the report says.

"Holiday season 2000 will be the revenge of the brick and mortars," said Sean Kaldor, vice president of e-commerce at NetRatings. "Battle lines are being drawn between the off-line brick and mortar stores and the Internet pure-plays. Off-line giants such as Old Navy, Kmart, and BestBuy, all of which had little or no Web presence last year, are poised for extraordinary growth during this holiday season. The biggest question is, will these companies be able to survive the intense infrastructure issues that plagued many companies last year?"

In August 2000, 146 million people had access to the Web, a 35 percent increase from last year, creating an even larger customer base for e-tailers, according to NetRatings. And the average time spent per person online has grown nearly 15 percent from 27 minutes to 31 minutes during the same time period.

"It will be the ultimate challenge for e-tailers to turn surfers into spenders as more surfers go online for longer periods of time," said Kaldor.

The online sector poised for the highest growth this holiday season is toys, said NetRatings, which projects 10 million people will shop online for toys in December. These figures show a 270 percent projected growth from last year's holiday season.

Last holiday season, eToys was the definitive winner in the toy category with more than four million visitors in November 1999 and almost 4.7 million in December 1999, compared to Toys R Us numbers at 3.5 million and 3.4 million, respectively, NetRatings said.

"Although eToys brought home the holiday gold last year, Toys R Us is poised to raise the bar with its recent partnership with Amazon.com," said Kaldor. "Amazon.com has a unique online presence that hasn't been matched by any other e-tailer."

Projected growth in other categories includes consumer electronics, up 109 percent; books/music/video, up 65 percent; apparel/accessories/shoes, up 61 percent; and virtual department stores in general, up 51 percent.

Nielsen//NetRatings is the audience measurement service from Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings Inc.