Ebay, Amazon fulfilled the most holiday shopping lists

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EBay, Amazon and Wal-Mart.com were the top shopping destinations this season, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The biggest online shopping day of the holiday season was Dec. 12 with 30.4 million unique visitors to the eShopping Holiday Index. On that day, eBay led the top shopping destinations with a unique audience of 12.4 million, followed by Amazon with 6.1 million unique visitors, and Wal-mart.com with 4.0 million.

"A wide selection of products is one factor that each of the top shopping destinations share, each offers a very broad selection of products in almost every product category," said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, New York "Amazon and Wal-Mart also offer very low and competitive pricing on many products, such as flat screen TVs and game consoles. Free shipping was a promotion used by all three during the holidays."

Online shopping has become a part of the holidays, with 24 percent more unique visitors to the Index on Thanksgiving and 29 percent more on Christmas Day than last year. Many people are taking advantage of holiday time off to go online and shop while bricks-and-mortar stores are closed.

The week ending Dec. 3 was the peak week this holiday season, with visits to the Index increasing 43 percent over the last week in October. Lego, Macy's and Office Depot led the year-over-year fastest growing online shopping destinations that week, with Web traffic increasing 120 percent, 70 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

The day after Christmas, traffic to the retail Web sites included in the eShopping Holiday Index grew 35 percent year over year, from 20.9 million in 2005 to 28.1 million in 2006. Shoppers were going online to check out after-Christmas sales, redeem gift cards and spend holiday cash, or to sell or exchange unwanted presents.

Other popular sites this season included BestBuy.com, Overstock.com, Dell.com and Sears.com.

Visits to shopping comparison Web sites also peaked during the week after Thanksgiving, increasing 75 percent from the start of the season to a total of 64.0 million shopping trips.

During the week ending Dec. 24, there was a 24 percent week-over-week decline in the use of these online comparison tools, from 60.1 million visits to 46.1 million. But the week ending Dec. 31 saw another uptick, growing six percent to 48.7 million shopping trips, another indicator of post-Christmas retail activity.

"Traffic to many of the shopping sites declines the week before Christmas as shoppers shift their spending on last minute purchases to physical stores," Ms. Dougherty said. "However, there is still significant traffic to shopping sites as retailers are able to offer free or affordable shipping options later and later into the season every year."

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