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Online holiday spending up, but not as much as expected

ComScore finds US online shoppers using desktop computers spent 10 percent more than last holiday season, propelled by gadget sales. It was expecting an increase of 14 percent.

Shoppers who made purchases via their desktop computers spent 10 percent more this holiday season than last, according to ComScore, but that was less than the 14 percent increase the market research firm had expected.

ComScore had predicted that US shoppers using desktop computers to make purchases would spend $48.1 billion in e-commerce between November 1 and December 22. Instead, the actual tally for the season came in at $42.8 million.

"Our expectations for the online holiday shopping season anticipated that consumers would spend heavily later into the season out of necessity to make up for the highly compressed holiday shopping calendar this year," said ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "Unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the final online shopping week saw considerably softer sales than anticipated, including zero billion dollar spending days -- although Monday and Tuesday came close.

The bright spots, however were gadgets. Video game consoles and accessories were the top gaining product categories over last year. Consumer electronics were third in the same ranking, bolstered by smartphone sales. And computer hardware ranked fourth, propelled by tablet sales.


The season's top spending day, like years prior, was Cyber Monday (December 2), when desktop shoppers spent $1.735 billion. That was followed by December 3, with $1.410 billion and Green Monday (December 9) with $1.401 billion. However, the season saw just 10 days with more than $1 billion in spending, compared with 12 such days in 2012, likely a reflection of the late Thanksgiving, which compressed the online shopping season.


"In the end, I think we'll look back at this online holiday season as one where absolute dollar sales gains in consumer spending were held back by heavy retailer price discounting that occurred in an attempt to stimulate consumer demand," Fugoni continued. "While at the same time, consumers weren't willing or able to increase their spending rate to fully compensate for the six-day shorter shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas."

And again, this report doesn't factor in purchases made by smartphones and tablets. Amazon on Thursday said that more than half of its customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday season.

Update December 27 at 5:18 a.m. PT: Online shopping was a big deal on Christmas Day, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark team. For that one day, when the wrapping paper had only just been ripped off the gifts bought earlier in the season, sales jumped 16.5 percent from a year earlier.

And like Amazon, IBM -- looking at holiday shopping more broadly -- said that mobile shopping was a big deal this holiday season. IBM said that, as drivers of online sales, smartphones outpaced tablets and iOS devices were way ahead of Android devices.