RichRelevance Unveils New Insights for Online Shopper Behavior In Run-Up to Holiday 2011

Americans are starting holiday shopping earlier than ever, but spending less on each online purchase than last year.

Social media plays an increasing role in driving shoppers to retail sites but not yet a significant source of traffic for retailers.

More shoppers come to retail sites from Google than any other search engine; AOL accounts for the least amount of traffic but it converts higher than all other search engines. Annual Summit – Boston, MA – September 13, 2011 – RichRelevance today released its new Online Consumer Report derived from analysis of customer viewing and shopping behavior on major U.S. online retail sites. The new study drills into more than 200 million shopping sessions to uncover how Americans are browsing and shopping online – and how their behavior varies depending on whether they are coming to a site from a bookmark, search engine or social network. As retailers prepare for early holiday shoppers (the NRF reports that more than 37 percent of shoppers plan to do some holiday shopping by Halloween), these key findings offer new insight into how consumer behavior may be impacted by a volatile economic climate.

Online Consumer Report Overview

  • Online conversion rates—the ratio of purchase sessions to shopping sessions—has remained relatively unchanged between 2010 and 2011, based on a year-on-year comparison of mass merchants. This rate was 2.1 percent in August 2010 and remained 2.13 percent in August 2011.
  • Overall online average order value has dropped from $128.27 to $116.58 in this period. The decline may be attributed to several factors, including increased cost consciousness and increased shipping efficiencies that encourage smaller purchases.
  • Shoppers behave very differently depending on how they arrive at the retail site. For example, while fewer shoppers come from Twitter than anywhere else, they spend more per order once they are on the site.

Spotlight: Social Networks and Shopping Behavior

  • Traffic from both Twitter and Facebook to retail sites has grown dramatically in the last year—but these networks still account for a very small portion of total traffic (less than one percent).
  • Facebook is growing the most dramatically of any channel as a source of retail shopping traffic. Facebook has upped its contribution by a whopping 92 percent between August 2010 and August 2011.
  • While shoppers who come to retail sites from Facebook and Twitter are less likely to make purchases (conversion rates of 1.2 percent and 0.5 percent respectively), they spend more per order than shoppers who come through Google. In fact, shoppers from Twitter had the highest average order value ($121.33) of all shoppers.

Spotlight: Search Engines and Shopping Behavior

  • Organic search engine traffic remains a primary traffic source for mass merchants, driving 18 percent of all traffic in August 2011.
  • Google accounts for the bulk of all organic search traffic to these major retailers, with 81 percent coming from the Google firehose.
  • Yahoo and Bing (including account for 9.7 percent and 7.5 percent of traffic, respectively, while just under two percent arrives from AOL (1.7 percent)
  • AOL has the highest conversion rate and slightly edges out Yahoo for highest average order value ($105.27).

Summary: Channel Conversion and Value

Channel Session Share Conversion Rate AOV
AOL 1.74% 2.9% $105.27
Bing 7.45% 2.4% $104.62
Google 80.62% 1.9% $100.16
Yahoo 9.67% 2.6% $105.13
Facebook 0.50% 1.2% $102.59
Twitter 0.02% 0.5% $121.33


  • The information in this report is derived from analysis of customer viewing and shopping behavior on selected major US online retail sites. During the August 2011 measurement period, these sites hosted more 200 million shopping sessions, resulting in over four million orders for a total value exceeding US$500 million.
  • In cases where multiple referrers existed for the same session, the first referrer, based on the timestamp, is identified as the source.

Comments on the News

  • “As retailers vie to get their share of an estimated $450 billion in holiday spending, there is a tremendous opportunity to respond to the different ways that people are shopping on their sites. The ones who succeed will be those who most effectively wrap the e-commerce experience around each shopper, whether they come from Facebook or Google or a direct email link.” – David Selinger, CEO of RichRelevance
  • “This data is a wake-up call for brands who want to reach holiday shoppers who are congregating in the online shopping channel. This is the time to focus on new ways to reach and influence consumers directly on retail sites, at the point of purchase, when they are ready to buy.” – Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance

About RichRelevance
RichRelevance powers personalized shopping experiences for the world’s largest and most innovative retail brands. Founded and led by the e-commerce expert who helped pioneer personalization at, RichRelevance helps retailers increase sales and effectively monetize site traffic by providing the most relevant products, content and offers to shoppers as they switch between web, store and mobile. RichRelevance has delivered more than $2.5 billion in attributable sales for its clients to date, and is accelerating these results with the introduction of a new form of personalized advertising called shopping media which allows brands to engage shoppers where it matters most – at the point of purchase on the largest retail sites in world. RichRelevance is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in New York, Seattle and London. For more information, please visit

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This post was written by RichRelevance

ABOUT RichRelevance
RichRelevance is the global leader in experience personalization, driving digital growth and brand loyalty for more than 200 of the world’s largest B2C and B2B brands and retailers. The company leverages advanced AI technologies to bridge the experience gap between marketing and commerce to help digital marketing leaders stage memorable experiences that speak to individuals – at scale, in real time, and across the customer lifecycle. Headquartered in San Francisco, RichRelevance serves clients in 42 countries from 9 offices around the globe.
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