Valentine’s Shoppers Favor Niche Sites Over E-tail Giants

According to research firm Nielsen//NetRatings, this year’s online Valentine’s Day shoppers clearly preferred niche sites to online superstores.

The company compared traffic in the two weeks before Valentine’s Day to traffic during normal shopping periods, and found that despite prominently-displayed promotions, online superstores such as Amazon,, eBay and CDNow saw no improvement in their typical site traffic while niche sites soared.

Online retailers are expected to bring in more than $400 million (US$) in Valentine’s Day sales, according to Forrester Research, making it the second most profitable holiday for retail e-commerce companies.

Lay of the Land

Flowers and greeting card sites saw traffic improve by 32 percent and 30 percent, respectively, Nielsen//NetRatings reported. Nielsen also said that led the category with a 71 percent jump in traffic.

Gift sites saw an 88 percent traffic increase over typical site traffic, Nielsen said. Specialty gift site RedEnvelope led that category with a 123 percent jump in sales.

Lingerie, always a hot category for Valentine’s Day, had a 78 percent rise in traffic, led by, which improved 65 percent, Nielsen reported.

One surprise was that jewelry sites saw their traffic drop 38 percent, according to Nielsen. While online jewelry sales has never been a hot category, it is not clear why sales declined in the two week period prior to Valentine’s Day.

Men Buy Lingerie Online, Women Like Gift Certificates

According to Electronic Commerce Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in helping e-tailers with their credit card processing, men accounted for more than 52 percent of traffic to lingerie sites. “Obviously, men who might be embarrassed to walk into their local Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s of Hollywood are much more at ease buying for their women using the anonymity and privacy of the Web,” the company noted.

Thanks to female shoppers, the gift certificate category also did well, climbing 77 percent on the strength of’s 103 percent increase, according to Nielsen.

In early sales, women comprised nearly 80 percent of the traffic to gift certificate sites, Electronic Commerce Strategies said.

Marketing Around Special Shopping Days a Winner

Based on what appears to be strong online sales for Valentine’s Day, niche market e-tailers may focus on special promotions for lesser-known shopping days.

“The Web’s ability to reach specific vertical targets affords even more scope for seasonal shopping. Look for Grandparents’ Day, Secretary’s Day, and a number of specific religious holidays to become entry points for retailers to promote and market their wares online,” E-Commerce Strategies predicts.

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