With Guy Fawkes Night just a few days away it won’t be long
before every TV ad, every shop window and every radio station is reminding us that Christmas is still almost two months away.

In readiness, I’ve been looking at some of the public information available on the market for virtual gifts. I’ve already pointed out what recent YouGov research is saying about the potential for sales this year, but how those virtual shops on the interweb are doing in reality is what’s really important. Hitwise is a great place to keep an eye on what’s happening and they have a few insights to share.

Overall visits to the Community – Humanitarian category are up. Hitwise is reporting that year on year traffic has increased by 12% (though this does include sites offering service provision as well as those designed to fundraise and give information). It’s interesting to see that the current number one site in this sector in the UK is The Hunger Site ­– not an
organisation that many people in the offline community will ever have come across.

Oxfam unwrapped visitsWhen it comes to virtual gifts, Hitwise is showing that Oxfam
is already demonstrating a growth in visits, with a sharp rise starting at
the beginning of October. It’s interesting to see that the Unwrapped site gets more hits than the main site and is currently ranked third in the Community-Humanitarian category, one place above it’s parent.

This is in contrast to searches around the broader term of fair trade (which includes terms like fair trade clothing and charity shops along with virtual / ethical gifts). Hitwise has found that these have been nsubject to a gentle decline over the past 12 months. Hitwise suggests that this is perhaps showing that shoppers are becoming less inclined to make more expensive ethical purchases as their economic confidence falls – as the recent down turn in sales of organic food may represent.

Virtual gifts will continue to drive traffic in this category and, without doubt, we will see a big spike as the Christmas shopping period really gets into swing. Real growth starts from Halloween and lasts until the week before Christmas when searches on the fair trade category fall off a virtual cliff.

Community humanitarian demographicsAnd it’s important to mention that it’s not just young people that will be buying virtual gifts. Hitwise demographics show that older people are more likely to visit Community – Humanitarian
category sites against the online population as a whole.