Niche Sites Rule Back-to-School

    September 14, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Nielsen//NetRatings released a report on Tuesday revealing the top ten fastest growing online shopping destinations during the back-to-school rush. The results indicate that timing is important for targeting the right market; too early or too late gets an “F.” But the niche is rules them all.

Though didn’t command the largest audience among retail sites in the weeks before Labor Day, the niche the company filled (backpacks, mainly) boosted the site at a rate of 118 percent. In July, an audience 582,000 swelled to 1.3 million in August.

That explosion of traffic dwarfed the growth of the number 2 spot, held by Office Max. Increasing 22 percent between July and August, OfficeMax’s online destination increased from 2.3 million visitors to 2.8 million visitors. jumped up from 2.4 million visitors to 2.8 million visitors, a spike of 16 percent.

“Online back to school shoppers are looking for a wide selection, good prices and a way to avoid crowds,” said Heather Dougherty, senior retail and travel analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. “Parents are motivated by online coupons and other promotions, while kids are increasingly becoming educated online shoppers in their own right.”

What’s interesting is that many of the retailers who made the top ten list in terms of traffic spikes, had a corresponding aggressive campaign that began just weeks before the anticipated rush. But they didn’t make the top three, whose ad impressions barely moved or actually decreased in the days before – because necessity is the mother of capitalism. saw an increase of just 13 percent in total image-based online ad impressions. For OfficeMax, impressions decreased by 18 percent. For L.L. Bean, the decrease was 8 percent.

Compare that to J.C. Penney, who offers more general back to school items, and the 1226 percent increase in impressions. The increase resulted in just nine percent growth. Kohl’s increased ad impressions by 450 percent and experienced 10 percent growth. For Target, it was 119 percent and eight percent growth.

Other than finding a niche and pounding it out at the right times, Dougherty says there is another lesson – sometimes it’s too early to launch a campaign.

“Back to school retailers can maximize their ROI by running strong online advertising campaigns in the few weeks before the school year begins,” said Dougherty. “July is too early to reach most families, whose kids start the school year right before or right after Labor Day.”

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