Traditional Retailers Show Unexpected E-Commerce Savvy

Conventional wisdom might lead us to believe that Web-only businesses are much better at selling their wares online than traditional retailers who have recently jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon.

The Internet has a way of defying convention however, and a new study by Nielsen/NetRatings reveals that brick-and-mortar converts can turn lookers into bookers at roughly the same rate as Web-only retailers.

Nielsen/NetRatings, a recently-launched e-commerce strategies service, said it conducted a review of lookers (visitors) and bookers (buyers) at Web-only sites, Amazon.com, CDNow and Beyond.com.

It then compared the data to reviews conducted of traditional retailers Hallmark.com, Southwest.com and Fidelity.com and concluded that the ratio differed little — if any.

“Booker ratios for Internet markers reveal that the Web’s a level playing field,” said company VP, Allen Weiner. “We believe that conversion-rate parity between pure players like Amazon and multi-channel marketers like Southwest Airlines or Hallmark prove that brands and good business practices matter on the Web.”

On Equal Ground

Southwest Airlines had a higher looker/booker ratio than Amazon, in fact. Looking at figures for the month of May ’99, Nielsen/NetRatings determined that 9.1 percent of Southwest’s 722,000 unique visitors bought an airline ticket. Meanwhile, 8.6 percent of Amazon’s 6.4 million unique visitors bought one or more of the company’s products.

Of course, visitors to Amazon are more likely to browse through books and music offerings than visitors to Southwest are likely to browse through fare offerings.

However, the data for the other companies reviewed showed that Hallmark had better ratios than CDNow and Beyond.com — and Fidelity was just behind the two.

Nielsen Challenging Media Metrix

The Nielsen/NetRatings service launched in March. When it did so, it came in as a distinct underdog to the well-established Media Metrix service. Nielsen is, of course, the venerable Nielsen Media research, long associated with television ratings and the yardstick which TV execs use when they trot out those wretched “sweeps week” offerings.

The company teamed up with NetRatings last year and they introduced their E-commerce Strategies Service earlier this year. Together they have signed up a number of notable clients in the advertising, media, Internet and e-commerce fields.

Nielsen/NetRatings relies on Internet surfers – 9,000 of them, in fact – to troll for data. In addition to telling us there are 43.3 million active Internet users and an estimated 106 million in total, the company provides statistical information on completed Web transactions, syndicated reports on Internet use and custom analysis and consulting services.

It claims to be the first to provide looker/booker data, an important platform for companies to gauge their performance and that of their competitors, Nielsen/NetRatings says.

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