Amazon, Wal-Mart benefit as shoppers go online

23 December 2009

NEW YORK: Amazon, Wal-Mart and Sears are among the US retailers which have benefited from an increase in consumer activity on the web during the holiday period thus far.

According to Comscore, the research firm, internet sales rose by 4% on an annual basis in America from the start of November to 18 December, reaching $24.8 billion (€17.3bn; £15.5bn) in all.

Forrester has predicted that this medium will contribute 10% of retail revenues in the festive season, compared with around 7% for 2009 as a whole.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at the company, said "price and convenience are probably the biggest factors – you can often save money shopping online."

Earlier this month, Experian Hitwise reported that visitor numbers to the top 20 internet retail services rose 9% in the five weeks to 12 December year-on-year, while the biggest 500 properties were down by a similar amount.

Amazon recorded an improvement of 31% in this timeframe, taking its total share to 16%, having also seen sales of the Kindle, its eBook reader, continue to gain momentum.

Wal-Mart, the discount specialist, has placed a heightened emphasis on this area of its operations this year, with its share of visits creeping towards double-digits in the run-up to Christmas.

Raul Vazquez, ceo of, said its pace of expansion had bettered Amazon's by around 1.4% during the first nine months of 2009, suggesting an uptick of 21.7% over these three quarters.

"In this difficult economy, people migrate to value, and Wal-Mart stands for value. We have certainly seen traffic grow year over year," he added.

Goods selling well at present include TV sets, Apple'siPod music player, and the Wii, Nintendo's games console, alongside daily necessities such as diapers and personal care products, which appeal to busy moms.

"The part that surprised people is that our customers have been more decisive than they ever have been once they're on our website," Vazquez continued.

"Other online companies are seeing higher shopping cart abandonment rates – that fewer people who start a purchase actually finish it. We are seeing the opposite. More people that start a transaction finish the transaction."

The proportion of netizens visiting Sears also grew by 11% in the five weeks to 12 December, Experian said, helped by innovations like MySears, an online community providing a range of cross-platform features.

Ebay, the web auction service, has sent a "mobile boutique", featuring a collection of some of its best-selling items, across certain parts of America in an effort to encourage shoppers to consider this route when buying gifts.

ChannelAdvisor, which helps brands like Vodafone and HP sell their offerings through various digital platforms, estimated that like-for-like sales had risen by 4% on Ebay in the fortnight to mid-December.

However, comparative totals had improved by 74% on Amazon in the same period, Scot Wingo, ChannelAdvisor's chief executive, said.

"Clearly, Amazon continues to do very, very well and is taking share from everyone in the ecommerce world," he argued.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal/Associated Press; additional content by Warc staff