It’s 10PM; do you know where your shoppers are?

clock with shopping cart

One of the many reasons people love online shopping is the freedom to place orders anytime, anywhere. We’ve all bought a pair of shoes at 3AM once, right? (Maybe that’s just me.)

I was curious to see how many people actually are shopping in the wee hours of the night, and what times of day are most popular for e-commerce.  I broke down the day into one-hour segments, and looked at average daily visitation to several major retailers and categories during each hour. While the overall trends were similar across the board, a few interesting patterns emerged.

Visitation to most retail categories peaks in the evening hours, around 8-10PM. There is a steady increase throughout the day (from about 9AM on), and it drops off around 11PM. The lowest levels occur in the early morning hours—between 3 and 5AM. Though traffic drops dramatically, there are still diehard shoppers at this time of day—proving that the world of online shopping never sleeps. Categories behave differently. For example, Sporting Goods retailers see a concentrated peak around 8PM, after fairly low levels throughout the day. Home Improvement sites peak in the morning and remain steady through the afternoon, with an early drop-off at night.

category visitation by hour march 2011

I also looked at 4 major online retailers, Amazon, Overstock, Target, and Walmart, and compared their shopping patterns throughout the day. While the lines trend similarly, Amazon and Overstock skew slightly later, with peaks at 8PM. Target and Walmart see visitation a bit earlier, with peaks at 7PM, and more dramatic drop-offs at night. These patterns suggest that shoppers might associate brick-and-mortar retailers (Target and Walmart) with more “typical” store hours, while pureplays (Amazon and Overstock) are viewed as open anytime.

retailer visitation by hour march 2011

Finally, I wanted to see if certain demographics had different visitation patterns. I took the Apparel category and broke out hourly visitation by male and female groups. Both had peaks in the evening around 8PM, however, women had more constant visitation throughout the day, as well as a peak in the morning.

apparel visitation male vs female march 2011

This is just one example of how retailers could use this information to reach their shoppers more effectively. Apparel retailers could target women during these peak times, or work to draw more men to their sites throughout the day. In the world of email and social media bombardment, retailers have to work harder than ever to stand out from the pack. By knowing when their prime customers are online, they can target them more easily and potentially bring more traffic to their site.

About Lindsay Steinbach:
Lindsay Steinbach is an Associate in Retail and Consumer Products at Compete. Lindsay is responsible for data mining and providing analysis for a wide rang of retail and CPG clients. Before Lindsay joined the Compete team she was a student at Dartmouth College. Connect with Lindsay on LinkedIn