Study: E-Commerce Sees Seasonal Shift

Reflecting a seasonal pattern, apparel and sports Web sites topped the list of Internet categories viewed most by home computer users last month, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The monthly study by the Internet audience measurement service also showed that online visits to toy, game, entertainment and travel sites declined over the same period.

Peggy O’Neill, director of Internet Investment Strategies for NetRatings, said that despite the downslide in some categories, Internet activity remains strong.

“Seasonal trends will affect the rise and fall of certain categories,” O’Neill said. “As we approach the holiday season, apparel and other e-commerce sites will continue to garner traffic, while online travel sites are poised to make strong gains during peak holiday travel season.”

Ups and Downs

Apparel sites topped the list of categories, increasing by 10 percent from July to August in a reflection, according to O’Neill, of the interest of shoppers who turned to the Internet to buy back-to-school and fall wardrobe items.

Sports sites also showed a six percent gain in traffic as fans turned to the Web for information on golf, football and baseball.

While shopping and sports sites saw a surge, visits to online travel sites dropped by 10 percent from July to August as the summer vacation season drew to a close. Those sites are expected to gain new momentum, however, as the holiday travel season approaches, O’Neill said.

Internet visits to toy, game and entertainment sites dropped nine percent during that same period.

Online and Offline Converge

O’Neill said the indicators show that the Internet is experiencing the same trends reflected in the offline world.

“The Internet is starting to become predictable,” O’Neill told the E-Commerce Times. “In e-commerce, just as in the retail world, there is a seasonality. We’re starting to see those same seasonality trends with the Internet. The [Web] is starting to settle down and reflect what is happening offline.”

More Viewed In Less Time

The number of Web pages viewed by home computer users jumped almost eight percent in August, even though the study showed most home Internet surfers spent four percent less time on the Web during the previous month.

“People are getting faster about consuming the pages and maneuvering through the sites faster,” O’Neill said. “That tells me they’re getting more comfortable with navigating the Web.”

Still, the study showed that most Web users are only hitting about 10 sites each time they log on. That trend could have some effect on e-commerce, O’Neill predicts.

“Because the number of site visits per person is around 10, that means it’s harder for new sites to break in, because people’s surfing patterns are already established,” O’Neill said. “If you’re a new site, you will probably have to work at taking eyeballs away from another site.”

AOL Tops Overall Ratings

AOL Web sites made up the most visited property in August, reaching 63.7 million visits, each of which lasted an average of 43 minutes. Yahoo!, the Microsoft Network (MSN), Microsoft, and Lycos rounded out the top five.

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