U.S. online spending hit $50 billion last quarter

Spending at online retail stores jumped 14 percent last quarter, reaching $49.7 billion, the fifth quarter in a row of double-digit growth.

The holiday season triggered a healthy surge in online spending, according to stats released yesterday by ComScore.

For 2011's final quarter, online spending in the United States hit $49.7 billion, a 14 percent jump from a year ago. That marked the ninth quarter in a row of positive year-over-year growth and the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit gains.

Ten individual days out of the quarter saw more than $1 billion in online spending. Cyber Monday, November 28, was on top, with $1.25 billion. Monday, December 5, came in second, with $1.18 billion in spending. And Green Monday, December 12, took third place, with $1.13 billion.

More than half (52 percent) of all online retail sales included free shipping, beating the previous record of 49 percent from 2010's fourth quarter.

The most popular product categories were Digital Content and Subscriptions, Jewelry and Watches, Consumer Electronics, Toys and Hobbies, and Computer Software. Each individual category saw at least an 18 percent jump in sales from a year ago.

Smartphones and tablets were used heavily last quarter, especially as consumers increasingly compared prices and checked product features on their mobile devices while in a physical store.

"The fourth quarter of 2011 capped off what was yet another strong year for online retail, one in which every quarter achieved double-digit increases versus the prior year," ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement. "In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs.

For 2011 as a whole, U.S. online retail spending captured a record $161.5 billion, representing a 13 percent leap from 2010. And ComScore sees more of the same this year.

"Price and convenience continue to be the critical value drivers for e-commerce, and unless those conditions change, we can expect to see more channel-shifting to online in 2012 and perhaps even an acceleration in the current growth trend," Fulgoni said.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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