Amazon Beat eBay in Holiday Traffic
By Brad Stone
For years, eBay ruled the e-commerce roost. Each holiday season, more visitors spent more time and looked at more pages on eBay.com than on any of its rivals, including Amazon.com. It made sense; eBay is a wide open forum for every kind of seller and item, while Amazon has traditionally pushed a selection of products through its network of physical warehouses.
But all that is now slowly changing. Amazon has opened its site to independent sellers, while eBay’s auction model is running into problems with fee-fatigued sellers and buyers wary of fraud and counterfeit items.
Now the latest audience figures from Nielsen Online confirm that the e-commerce traffic crown has changed heads. For the month of December, for the first time, more Americans clicked over to Amazon.com (59,624,000) than eBay (59,374,000).
Despite the slim margin between the two companies, eBay’s visitor count is particularly alarming. According to the Nielsen data, the number of visitors to eBay.com dropped 10 percent from December 2006 to December 2007.
Nielsen has not publicly distributed its December traffic data yet, but supplied the numbers to The New York Times upon request.
EBay.com still leads Amazon.com in the number of page views it gets and the amount of time users spend on the service. But those are not necessarily positive indicators—they could be interpreted as evidence that people are finding what they want more quickly on Amazon than on eBay.
Amazon deserves some credit for the reversal. According to Nielsen, traffic in the United States to Amazon.com jumped 18 percent from December 2006 to December 2007. Customers flocked to Amazon.com for the increased selection, the new digital music and video download stores, and what my colleague Joe Nocera praised last week as Amazon’s exemplary customer service.
But at the same time, some long-term problems at eBay are clearly at work here too. My colleague Saul Hansell wrote about some of these problems in a series of posts on Bits last month. They include poor customer service, rampant fraud and counterfeiting and an outmoded design. EBay has said in the past it is working hard to combat fraud and to improve the experience for both buyers and sellers.
An eBay spokesman declined to comment on anything related to fourth quarter performance, since it is reporting earnings next week.