This week in the Index's tech column~ Gift-buying via computer skyrockets

If you shopped online this year, you’re not the only one. By all indications, so far this December, Internet shopping for this holiday has increas-ed 45 percent over last year. This is more than can be said for the “bricks”retailers with fairly flat sales this season.
Jupiter Media Metrix just came out with a report on holiday shopping online. 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.
Jupiter is a research company that provides businesses – and really all of us interested in how the Internet is changing – with studies and resources for understanding and profiting from the Internet.
Jupiter senior analyst Ken Cassar gave an inside view of how e-commerce is fairing this December. Cassar covers Retail Infrastructure for Jupiter Media Metrix’s and has spearheaded research into shopping bots, online gift giving, affiliate programs, digital wallets, pricing and multichannel strategies.
Q: How much is e-commerce playing a part in holiday shopping?
A: We’ve become accustom to triple digit growth rates over the past several years. We here at Jupiter predict that the 2001 holiday online retail and travel sales will reach approximately $11.9 billion, compared to last year’s $10.8 billion. It was dragged down a bit by travel, which was down by 8 percent. The actual traffic numbers coming in over the past few weeks show traffic levels about 40 percent above last year. More people are shopping online and consumers are allocating a greater percentage of their holiday budget to shopping on the Internet.
Q: What do you think is going on there? Are people shopping from home because they don’t want to go out of the house?
A: I think it’s more that people are becoming more comfortable with the online shopping pro-cess. It’s also because more people are coming online. About a year ago there were about 125 million people on-line. There are about 142 million people online now. Another reason more are shopping on the web is that retailers’ early-purchase incentives, such as free delivery for early orders, have contributed to a solid start to the holiday shopping season.
Q: Are more people going to the big brand “bricks and clicks” Web sites or are smaller sites driving this surge?
A: The bigger retailers are likely to have more stable and serious efforts online. Two years ago, Wal-Mart was sort of staggering online. Their strategies were changing fairly regularly. Many are very stable now. Look at Best Buy and Circuit City, who are the two biggest retailers of consumer electronics. They’re promoting their web sites very prominently on their TV commercials. This is a big sign of confidence.
Q: What kinds of items are people buying online this holiday season?
A: The biggest category in terms of growth is toys and games. Visitor numbers to those web sites rose 123 percent. Electronics came in second with a 97 percent gain, followed by home and garden. Sites selling movies had increased traffic to 1.4 million average daily unique visitors. This was mainly to and the Columbia House Web sites. Apparel sites also are seeing traffic up 67 percent, with 1.6 million average daily unique visitors.
Q: It’s hard to imagine buying clothes online without trying them on.
A: It’s interesting, but it’s the more affluent Web shoppers that are buying apparel. had the highest percentage of visitors with household incomes over $100,000. About 30 percent of the buyers at, and have household incomes greater than $100,000.
Q: Do you see different online shopping patterns between men and women?
A: Guys tend to shop the computer and electronic Web sites. For instance, about 83 percent of visitors to, and are men.. Conversely, women skew toward apparel sites. Women composed 70 percent of visitors to, and
Q: Were there really big e-commerce winners online?
A: Some of the top sites with the highest percentage gain in average daily visitors in the second week in December were,,, and
A full audio interview with Ken Cassar, analyst for Jupiter Media Metrix, can be heard at:
Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index. She is also co-host of WebTalkGuys, a radio talk show featuring technology news and interviews. The show is broadcast on CNET Radio in San Francisco/San Jose, Boston and over the XM Satellite Radio Network Channel 130 every Saturday at 10 a.m. PST and Sunday at 7 p.m. PST. WebTalkGuys is also Webcast on the Internet on demand from:
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