Latest Hitwise data (August 2009) reports a significant 47.5% uplift in UK internet searches for discount voucher terms over the last year (July 08 – July 09). Interestingly however, actual visits to specialist voucher websites have decreased by 5%, whereas traffic to retailers for the same keywords has increased by more than 10% from 28.2% to 41.5% over the same period.

Hitwise attributes these trends to the emergence of the “Maximising Consumer”, a new breed of internet shopper immune to the quick fix of generic voucher and discount advertising, instead choosing to extensively research and seek out exclusive offers and concessions for certain products and retailers.

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This assumption is supported by research from the IAB Affiliate Council, which states that 95% of all voucher code publishers are now compliant with best practice procedures for the use of voucher codes. Could the 5% non-compliant publishers account for the 5% drop in traffic to specialist voucher websites – having been identified and eliminated by the savvy Maximising Consumer?

The same Hitwise report reveals that the share of total UK internet visits going to transactional websites (i.e. retail, business and finance and travel) has declined over the last three years, eclipsed by the growth in visits being driven to content websites in the entertainment, social networking, news and media and lifestyle sectors.

In July 2006, transactional sites accounted for 5% more UK internet visits than content-driven ones. Fast forward three years to 2009 and content-driven sites are now generating up to 73% more UK visits than transactional sites.

Hitwise concludes that the current recession has led to an increasing proportion of online time being spent browsing content, communicating and networking rather than shopping.

So what does this mean for the future of ecommerce, especially in the lead up to and beyond Christmas 2009? Will we see retailers and voucher code publishers start to form serious strategic alliances in an attempt to ignite consumer spending again? Or will a new type of affiliate appear, specifically targeting and capitalising on the rise of the maximising consumer? Things are about to get interesting, watch this space….

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