Study: Online Users Flock to Comparison Sites

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Online consumers increasingly are using shopping-comparison sites to research products, prices and merchants, Internet audience measurement and analysis firm Nielsen//NetRatings said yesterday.

More than 21 million online users, or 16 percent of active U.S. Internet users, visited one or more comparison-shopping sites in August at work or home, according to the Milpitas, CA, company.

Leading the set of shopping advisers, (formerly DealTime) attracted 11.9 million unique visitors from home and work in August. BizRate Shopping garnered 5.9 million visitors in the same month. Third was NexTag with 4.6 million consumers. PriceGrabber grew 81 percent in the past year to draw 3.9 million shoppers.

"Shopping-comparison sites are no longer just about comparing price," said Robert Leathern, director of commerce analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings. "Consumers want to examine features and functionality along with user and merchant reviews."

Leathern also said that consumers focus much of their online product research on "finding ballpark prices for products they actually buy offline. Shopping-comparison sites and portal shopping sites are thus having an increasing impact not just online, but on purchases made in stores as well."

In another study released last week, Nielsen//NetRatings reported that Web surfers flocked to Halloween-related sites to shop for costumes and other novelties during the week ending Oct. 5.

Web traffic to jumped 71 percent to 371,000 unique at-home visitors, compared with 217,000 visitors the week prior. Nearly 60 percent of the site's audience accessed costume information pages. attracted 313,000 unique visitors from home, a 31 percent rise over the previous week. Nearly 24 percent of the audience visited pages featuring Halloween costumes., which featured children's costumes on its home page, saw an increase of 25 percent from 234,000 visitors to 293,000 visitors.

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