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Wal-Mart.com Drives Traffic To Stores

The mammoth retailer's holiday online sales are expected to grow 25%, to $18 billion, compared with last year's 30% growth between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Forrester Research.
There isn't an online greeter on the Wal-Mart.com home page waiting to wish you a happy shopping experience, but the giant retailer expects to greet 160 million visitors to the site, up from 100 million in 2004, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.

If those numbers prove accurate, that puts site traffic at 500 million visits this year, Raul Vazquez, vice president of marketing at Wal-Mart.com told TechWeb. "We expect 60 percent growth on our site for the year compared with analysts' projected 18 to 25 percent," he said. "The increase is based on trends and estimates for sales and traffic this year, including the holidays." The top selling item is electronics.

Holiday online sales overall are expected to grow 25 percent to $18 billion, compared with last year's 30 percent, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Forrester Research.

Wal-Mart.com itself expects to boost online sales between 40 percent and 70 percent this holiday season with exclusive merchandise from electronics to music. The site offers more than one million products not available in the stores.

But not all customers who visit the site make a purchase. In fact, more than 50% visit the site for its other offerings such as digital photo services, the online pharmacy, and downloadable music. Or they gather information on products to make purchases in the store, or elsewhere.

Wal-Mart.com relies on its more than 3,000 brick-and-mortar locations to augment the downloadable digital photo service, for example. Consumers can upload digital photos to Wal-Mart.com servers and pick them up in the store within an hour. Nearly 90% of online photo orders are picked up in the store.

This year, the company added to the Web site a feature that allows customers to generate automatic refills on prescriptions and pick them up in the store.

These service, along with others launched within the last year, push customers from the Web site and into the stores.

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