ComScore: Online spending to increase 15%

In prior-year period, sales rose 12%

NEW YORK — Heading into the holiday season, it was widely expected that online sales would enjoy another year of double-digit growth, and now new data from the online measurement firm ComScore confirms those earlier expectations.

For the first 20 days of November, ComScore reported that online sales had increased 14% to $9.7 billion, and forecast that online sales for the full November through December period would increase 15% to a total of $37.6 billion. If online spending hits ComScore’s forecast, it will mark acceleration from the prior year when online sales increased 12% to $32.6 billion.

“The 2011 online holiday shopping season has shown strength in the early going with a year-over-year growth rate of 14%,” ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said. “With the persistent backdrop of macroeconomic uncertainty and continued high unemployment, consumers appear to be increasingly favoring the online benefits of convenience and lower prices. Based on the expectation that these positive spending trends will continue for the season, this year promises to be a Merry Christmas indeed for online retailers.”

According to Fulgoni, ComScore relies on statistical modeling to forecast holiday sales that incorporate year to date online sales that are well above prior year levels along with other well-documented trends.

“These projected growth rates reflect the significant channel shift we’re witnessing from offline retail as an increasing number of consumers rely on the online channel for initial browsing, price comparisons and completing transactions,” Fulgoni said.

Alongside the firm’s reporting of behaviorally monitored e-commerce spending, ComScore is also conducting regular surveys of approximately 1,000 consumers to determine attitudes and sentiment in regard to the holiday shopping season. In the most recent survey, conducted from Nov. 17 to 21, consumers indicated that they believe retailers’ promotional activity for the early part of the season has increased in relation to last year. Specifically, 33% of respondents indicated that they are seeing more discounts, sales and promotions versus last year, compared with just 7% who said there were fewer. They also indicated that if retailers aren’t offering free shipping they aren’t likely to buy.

When asked how important free shipping is for making an online purchase this holiday season, slightly more than three-quarters of consumers indicated it was important, and 47% indicated they would abandon a purchase if they got to checkout and found that free shipping was not included.

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