As the economy softened, the overall number of visitors to online brokerage sites grew 14% in the past year, more than twice the rate of growth of the total US internet audience, according to a comScore study of the online trading and brokerage industry.
The strong visitor growth to online brokerage sites coincided with, and were likely in part the result of,?heavy online advertising efforts by several of the key brokerages, comScore said.
Despite a 9% decline in visitors, Fidelity Investments still led the category with 3 million visitors in June 2008; it was followed by Scottrade Sites (1.6 million visitors) and E*Trade Financial Network (1.2 million visitors), both of which showed strong growth in unique visitors.
“Though it may seem counterintuitive, an economic downturn actually represents an opportunity for companies in the financial sector because consumers are more engaged with their finances. The increase in visitors to online brokerage sites during a weakening stock market reflects this reality,” said Brian Pugh, comScore director of financial solutions.
“Because consumers may be more open to brand switching if they see a chance to save money or mitigate financial risk, financial service companies should seek to capitalize on the opportunity. One way online brokerages have attempted to do so is by increasing their investments in online advertising.”
Online Advertising Efforts
Among online brokerages with a significant paid search strategy, E*Trade.com led with 6.4 million paid search ad impressions in June. E*Trade.com has consistently led the competitive set since the beginning of the year and has been widening its lead versus the rest of the group.
Also notable is that the two newest online brokerage sites in the competitive set, Zecco and Trade King, have pulled ahead of T. Rowe Price in their paid search link exposures, indicating a significant early push in the SEM acquisition channel.
Scottrade, ranking second among online brokerages in paid search link exposures, was the top display advertiser in June with more than 1.2 billion ad views, followed by E*Trade (549 million ad views), Fidelity Investments (498 million ad views), and TD Ameritrade (314 million ad views).
Scottrade reached 67.6 million people with its display ads, representing more than one third of the total US internet audience.
“Scottrade and E*Trade are the category leaders in terms of having the heaviest online advertising plans,” Pugh said. “However, recent entrants Zecco and Trade King are investing in their own online advertising efforts and may eventually prove themselves to be important competitors in this market.”