Unraveling Holiday Shopping: Using passive metering to understand how consumers shop online during the holiday season – Part II

Welcome to the second part of the ‘Unraveling Holiday Shopping’ case study! This time, we look into the specific e-commerce platforms that were used most by different consumer segments as well as the differences in shopping behavior between genders and generations. In case you missed the first part of this series, you can find it here.

Which platforms do people use?

To start, we had a look at which shopping related websites were most popular amongst our participants in four different metrics - average number of sessions[1], average duration, reach[2] and stickiness[3].

Top 5 e-commerce sites - sessions and duration

Amazon and Walmart are clearly the most popular sites in terms of reach and average duration, with Amazon dominating all metrics including average number of sessions.

Two perhaps surprising domains in the top five of duration are Schwan’s and Fedex, but if we look at the time period of the study, they are more understandable. Schwan's is an online grocery and food delivery service, which could be used for arranging Christmas dinners. Fedex is also popular around Christmas time as people either track their ordered packages or arrange to send packages to friends and family.

Top 5 e-commerce sites - reach and stickiness

Home Depot, Groupon and eBay have about the same reach within the panel, but if we look at the duration chart, eBay is the only one of the three domains which made the top 5. Amazon is still number one in all metrics, but Walmart is not far behind. This might not be an unexpected top two, but it is still interesting to see Walmart become a contender in online, and not just retail shopping.

Diving deeper into the data

Speaking of Amazon as the top e-commerce domain, we also looked into the top searched items and most visited categories on the site during our study.

Top searched items on Amazon

The video game 'Dead Rising 4' had the most searches, which is reasonable as it was released on December 6th.

Other than this, most people were searching for electronics and wearables, such as fitbits, soundbars, and Amazon Fire sticks. Interesting to note: About a sixth of our respondents used smile.amazon.com. It is the same site, with the same prices, the only difference is that a small amount of your purchase goes to charity.

Most visited categories on Amazon

Comparison of men and women

We looked specifically at the top two domains mentioned above - Amazon and Walmart - to compare the online behavior of men and women. In terms of average duration, the breakdown was as follows:

From this, we can say that women, on average, spent more than twice as much time shopping on both Amazon and Walmart per person than men did.


Within the female subset, 29% of our respondents were mothers. Since 3 out of 4 moms identify themselves at the primary shoppers in their household[4], we also took a deeper look into their online shopping behavior on Amazon and Walmart.

Moms are an exception to the general trend of Amazon dominating all metrics - in terms of average duration, moms spent longer on Walmart than Amazon. Even so, Amazon was used by more participants and more of those visitors returned on a daily basis.


There were some notable domains missing from each generation’s top 5 in unique visitors which were present in the other groups - Millennials are the only ones without Home Depot, Generation X did not have Groupon in theirs, and Baby Boomers were the only group without eBay in their top 5.

A surprising insight we gathered from breaking down the data per generation is that while all the groups had a comparable average amount of sessions on Walmart.com, Millennials on average spent a lot more time on the site - roughly four times more than Baby Boomers, and three times more than Generation X.

Coming up

In the next part, we will be looking at the online journeys our participants took before they reached a purchase, as well as some specific examples of individual paths to purchase.

[1] We define a session as any activity from one participant that occurs without a pause longer than 30 minutes - for example, someone might be searching something on their laptop, close it, and grab their phone to continue their online browsing 25 minutes later. This is counted as one session.

[2] Reach refers to the total number of different people or households exposed, at least once, to a domain during our observational period.

[3] Stickiness is a metric that describes the engagement of a user to an app or domain. The assumption is, the more somebody returns to a domain, the more engaged they are. The metric is calculated by getting the daily average users (total users / total days measured) and dividing it by the total users. If your website has a 33% stickiness, that means that for every new user you bring in, you have a 33% shot at turning them into a daily user.

[4] Punchbowl (2013)The World of Digital Moms: 101 Stats That Brands Need to Know