Digital Retail Insight

December sees boost in online traffic

“The winter peak is the most pivotal point of the retail calendar, with both the highest
proportion of consumer visits to retail websites and online sales made. With this in
mind, t he growth seen in visits to retail websites and to a lesser extent the slight
growth in users was welcome news for retailers, with online as a channel going from
strength to strength.

Given the later timing of Black Friday, there is an element of inflation due to challenge
in getting a ‘true’ like for like comparison with 2018. The change in timing was a
double edged sword. While the event’s proximity to Christmas gave it a boost in both
visits and unique users , it also cannibalised full price sales from the lead up to

Traditionally strong gifting and promotion sensitive categories had a bullish peak
period. Health & Beauty’s substantial growth in December visits perhaps
demonstrates an increase in price sensitivity among consumers, as there were deeper
levels of discounts offered across this highly competitive market than in previous

Kyle Monk, Head of Insight & Analytics, British Retail Consortium:

“Onlinesales continued to grow at +2.6% in Nov Dec YoY, albeit at a slower pace
than last year, according to BRC KPMG figures. Hitwise data also supports this rise.
The number of retail visits per person was consistently higher over peak retail period
in 2019 compared to 2018, with the highest point occurring over Black Friday week.
Average conversion rates * were also greater than last year, peaking at 4.4% two
weeks before Christmas. This data shows that browsing behaviours have grown and
shifted earlier into the quarter. Consumers were also returning back to retail sites
more frequently, and were more likely to purchase online.

Although online activity has grown, there has been a cost to total revenues. Over the
past few years, several retailers have started their major promotions well before Black
Friday, and have extended these out through to Christmas. Hitwise data has seen a
shift in consumers increasingly searching for “discounts”, which was up 10% year on
year, and “Black Friday deals”, which was also up 21% year on year. The fastest rising
terms included brand specific searches, such as electronics, appliances and fashion
brands, indicating that consumers are waiting and expecting a discount on their
favourite brands and hot products.

Retailers need to break this cycle if they are to be profitable in 2020. They need to
understand the brands and products that their target audiences are seeking, and what
channels and sites these audiences are using to browse, research and consider their

Giles Longhurst, SVP and General Manager, Hitwise


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