Paid social and search ads drive more clicks

Jan 31, 2017 by

Paid social and search ads drive more clicks

Paid ads on search engines and social networks account for a bigger share of e-retail traffic, Hitwise says.

That Amazon.com Inc. dominated e-commerce during the recent holiday season will surprise few retailers. But Hitwise traffic data also reveals some less obvious trends, including that paid ads accounted for a greater share of traffic from search engines and social networks and that there are certain days when holiday shoppers browse more and other days when they’re more likely to buy.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500, accounted for 33.8% of visits to retail websites during November and December, according to Hitwise, a division of Connexity Inc., a provider of e-commerce marketing automation technology. The next-highest retailer was Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 4 in the Top 500) at 6.69%, followed by Target Corp. (No. 22) at 3.25%, Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 20) at 2.93% and The Home Depot Inc. (No. 7) at 2.1%. The top 10 retailers accounted for just over 55% of all holiday website traffic, leaving less than 45% for all other e-retail sites.

The dominant retailers’ 33.8% share undoubtedly underestimates Amazon’s holiday market share, because Hitwise is not able to track activity on retailers’ mobile apps. Of the website traffic Hitwise can track, Amazon gets only 41% from mobile devices, while Wal-Mart gets 53%, Target 54% and Best Buy 55%. Given that Amazon’s mobile app is very popular, Hitwise says if app data were included, Amazon’s mobile share might well be higher than that of competitors.

That suggests Amazon’s overall share of traffic—from apps and website visits—would be well above a third. Slice Intelligence has estimated Amazon accounted for 38% of U.S. e-retail sales during the recent holiday season.

Search engines represented the leading source of traffic to retail websites at 45% during November and December, followed by social networks at 9%. And in both cases a larger share of the traffic this year came from ads, rather than free links on search engines or posts on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The share of traffic from organic search fell to 26% during the 2016 holiday season from 30% in 2015, and the share of clicks from paid ads on social networks increased by more than 10 times to 3.6% of traffic in 2016 from 0.25% in 2015.

“Paid traffic is clearly on the rise,” says Rochelle Bailis, director of content at Connexity. “While organic efforts remain important, paid social media and search marketing will become increasingly crucial to prioritize in the coming year.”

Bailis says the Hitwise data also shows the importance of retailers recognizing when consumers are more likely to buy and when many are just browsing, especially during what she calls the “Peak Week” around Thanksgiving. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was the top day for traffic to retail websites, followed by Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. But, while Cyber Monday was the No. 1 day in terms of conversion and Black Friday No. 2, Thanksgiving Day was only No. 9 for the season.

“Thanksgiving is one of the most popular shopping days of the entire year, but conversions remain relatively lower than Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Bailis says. “Thanksgiving is a key planning day, and consumers know they can hold out several days and still secure a discount.”

The Hitwise data also shows:

  • 54% of traffic to retail websites came from desktop computers and 46% (not counting app activity) from smartphones and tablets.
  • There were 16% more visits from smartphones, 6% fewer from desktops and 11% fewer from tablets.
  • Revenue from smartphones increased 31%, from desktops 2% and tablet revenue was flat.
  • Online searches related to promotions were 13.6% higher during November and December than during the rest of the year, and 55% higher during Thanksgiving week.

By Don Davis Editor in Chief at Internet Retailer

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