Online traffic to major shopping websites declined by an average of 2% in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to the same quarter a year earlier, translating to about 117 million fewer shopper visits per month, according to SimilarWeb’s Market Intelligence blog.
The most popular of those sites — including those run by Amazon, eBay, and Walmart — each had traffic gains in the 3% to 4% range. Best Buy, whose site finished fifth in overall traffic for the quarter, also saw a gain of about 4% during the period.
Other retailers whose sites finished in the top 10 for most traffic for the quarter included Target, Home Depot, Etsy, Macy’s, Lowe’s and Kohls, but only Home Depot and Lowe’s experienced traffic gains year over year, while the rest of the top 10 experienced declines, according to Similar Web.
What’s interesting about this study is not which sites saw the biggest gains or even which sites finished in the top 10 overall for web traffic, all of which is fairly predictable. The more intriguing trend is that so many sites saw traffic declines year over year. Not only was the recent holiday season observed to be the biggest for online shopping yet, but it seemed likely the brick-and-mortar apocalypse should have only accelerated the movement of shoppers from malls and stores to websites.
Yet, outside of the top 10, where site traffic rose an average of 1.6%, traffic was down in every other grouping of 10 sites (11-20, 21-30, etc) for the rest the top 50. Even the top 10 had some big losers, with Macy’s website traffic declining 17% year over year, Target’s dropping about 14% and Kohls sliding about 13%. Even online-only seller Etsy experienced an 11% drop.
SimilarWeb said a clear trend could be observed among the sites that saw traffic grow vs. those who experienced declines. The sites that saw increases had great balance between traffic sources, pulling traffic from direct traffic, organic search and referrals. Meanwhile, sites that didn’t perform as well year over year may have seen increases in direct traffic, but declines in traffic coming through both organic and paid search.
Online shopping sites need to do more than sit back and wait for consumers flummoxed by brick-and-mortar store shutdowns to show up — especially if their sites aren’t amazon.com, ebay.com or Walmart.com. Amazon's growing participation in more segments of retail also means that just about any online shopping site — except perhaps those of the home improvement retailers — will have a fight on its hand to acquire and keep customers.
The clear movement of shoppers online necessitates that online retailers have sound strategies for leveraging organic and paid search. As the weakest of the brick-and-mortar competition falls by the wayside, the weakest online players could be the next to be exposed.