Online improvement not evident in traffic numbers yet

July may not be a big month for online shopping, but traffic numbers at Target.com are heading in the wrong direction.

The online audience measurement firm comScore Media Metrix reported that Target.com had approximately 25.8 million unique visitors during July 2012 compared to roughly 26.5 million during July 2011. Despite the decline, on a positive note, Target was ranked 46th on the firm’s monthly Top 50 Web Properties report, making it the only traditional retailer beside Walmart to appear on the top 50 list.

Even so, the gap between Target.com and Walmart.com is wide and expanding. For example, the number of unique visitors to Walmart.com increased 16.8% to 45.2 million in July, placing the company 23rd on the top 50 ranking, compared to last July’s 38.7 million unique visitors and 25th place ranking. During July, Walmart.com actually grew at a faster pace than Amazon.com, albeit off a smaller base. Amazon.com saw its traffic increase 6.6% to 103.5 million visitors during July of this year compared to 97.1 million visitors in July 2011. Amazon.com was ranked sixth both years.

According to Target EVP of merchandising Kathee Tesija, the company continues to make progress on improving the site experience since a major relaunch last fall.

"Since the launch of our new platform a year ago, we’ve been keenly focused on enhancing site stability and speed, and our guests have noticed," Tesija said during Target’s second quarter earnings call. "In our July survey, guest satisfaction with site performance had returned to pre-launch levels. While we’re very pleased with this progress, we’re committed to delivering even more improvement."

Prior to the holiday season, she said Target will implement changes focused on site shoppability such as search, navigation, and speed of checkout.

"We believe these improvements will create a solid foundation for our site, and set the stage for additional enhancements next year," Tesija said.

Year to date, online sales are flat with the prior year and well below levels the company expects over time, according to Tesija.

"As we focus on the integration of our store, online, and mobile channels into a seamless guest experience, we will measure success based on total market share growth,

with guests determining the optimal mix of sales between our stores, online, and mobile channels," Tesija said. "As you know, consumers are rapidly moving into the mobile channel, and we’re happy with our results in this space. So far this year, our mobile traffic is running more than double last year, and sales are up nearly 3 times."