It's definitely happy holidays for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The mass merchandiser's site at www.walmart.com consistently has ranked as the second-most-visited retail store online this fall, after Amazon. Hitwise USA research for DM News shows Walmart.com even overtook Amazon in market share of traffic on Thanksgiving Day. This surge was due mainly to Wal-Mart advertising on Yahoo.
The data for Oct. 16-Dec. 10 show average session time on Walmart.com matched its market share. It dipped to 7 minutes 45 seconds at its lowest point in that period and capped at slightly more than 10 minutes. Just above it was Amazon, with a high of 12 minutes 22 seconds on Dec. 10. Target.com was third, reaching 8 minutes 56 seconds on Dec. 10.
Interestingly, session time for Walmart.com didn't drop during the Thanksgiving week spike.
Walmart.com got 44.11 percent of its upstream traffic from other shopping sites and 19.23 percent from search engines for the week ending Dec. 10.
Hitwise noticed significant cross shopping among Walmart.com, Target.com, Amazon, Best Buy and eBay.
Google was No. 1 of all upstream sites visited before Walmart.com, contributing 11.11 percent of the traffic sent to Walmart.com. In second place was Target.com with 5.13 percent. Yahoo Search followed at 4.92 percent. Amazon was at 3.24 percent, eBay 3.12 percent, MSN 2.6 percent, BestBuy.com 2.23 percent, Yahoo 1.73 percent, Walmart.com's Photo Center 1.52 percent and Kmart.com 1.34 percent.
Also, Walmart.com sent 45.32 percent of its downstream traffic to other shopping sites, excluding other Wal-Mart sites. Target.com captured 8.31 percent of the traffic that left Walmart.com. Next was Walmart.com's Photo Center at 6.22 percent, followed by the same site's Music Downloads area at 4.08 percent. Google was fourth at 3.99 percent, Walmart.com's In Stores Now area had 3.84 percent and Kmart.com 3.31 percent.
Rounding out the top 10 were Amazon's 3.2 percent, eBay's 3.08 percent, BestBuy.com's 2.96 percent and Yahoo's 2.79 percent.
In terms of search, the top 20 navigational terms sending visitors to Walmart.com accounted for 48.36 percent of search traffic to the site (see chart).
Without doubt, Walmart.com is driving traffic with competitive terms for electronic items and toys, which is also obvious from its home page layout.
Visitors to Walmart.com are more likely to be women (56.94 percent) living in small towns or rural settings, Hitwise said. The online store is not appealing to new segments that are higher income and urban, the market researcher said.
What about Wal-Mart and controversy? The site at www.walmartfacts.com, launched in January to counter bad publicity, received 600 times more traffic in the week ending Dec. 10 than the leading detractor site at www.walmart-blows.com.
“Visits to Walmartfacts.com spiked when Wal-Mart offered assistance with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort,” said LeeAnn Prescott, senior research analyst at Hitwise.
But the world's largest retailer still can't win them all. Consider this clarification currently posted on Walmartfacts.com: “There seems to be a growing misperception regarding the use of the phrase, 'Merry Christmas' at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart would like to clarify that it has no policy that prohibits an associate from wishing customers 'Merry Christmas.'
“We want our stores to reflect the communities they serve,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark states. “If 'Merry Christmas' is the preferred greeting, that is fine and appropriate. Or, some associates may choose to say 'Happy Holidays,' which may be more inclusive for Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Three Kings' Day, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters