Tablets, Smartphones Help Boost Online Shopping: comScore

More consumers than ever are shopping online, lured by free shipping deals and the ease of smartphones and tablets to surf the Web for deals .

For the holiday season to date, U.S. consumer have spent $20.4 billion online, marking a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year, according to market research firm comScore.

The report, which covered holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 30 days of the November–December 2012 holiday season. The most recent week saw three individual days eclipse $1 billion in spending, led by Cyber Monday, which became the heaviest online spending day on record at $1.46 billion.

For online shopping spend, Tuesday, Nov. 27 reached $1.26 billion, while Wednesday, Nov. 28 reached $1.11 billion. The report found that Monday and Tuesday of this past week reached new records as the two heaviest online spending days in history, with the Tuesday total slightly outpacing that of Cyber Monday 2011.

“Cyber Monday kicked off Cyber Week with a record spending total of $1.46 billion, but the ‘sugar high’ appears to be somewhat short-lived,” comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said. “While we still saw three billion dollar days this week, growth rates dampened following the peak demand of the Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday promotional period. This is a similar pattern to what we observed last year. In addition, unseasonably warm weather throughout many parts of the country may have given consumers some added impetus to shop in-store rather than rely on online shopping.”

The report also found increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets continues to be a strong driver of product category sales during the online holiday shopping season. Despite softening growth in flat panel TV sales, the consumer electronics category, ranked fourth at 17 percent growth, largely on the strength of smartphone sales.

The top-gaining category for the season-to-date is digital content and subscriptions, including digital book, music and video downloads, which has grown 25 percent versus year ago. The computer hardware category saw gains of 15 percent on the strength of tablet sales, despite traditional laptop and desktop computers posting more modest gains. Other categories currently performing well include toys (up 21 percent), consumer packaged goods (up 18 percent) and video game consoles and accessories (up 16 percent).

More than half of e-commerce transactions during each of the past three weeks of the holiday season have included free shipping, with a peak of 57 percent during the week ending Sunday, Nov. 25. During the first five weeks of the holiday season, consumers spent an average of 42 percent more on free shipping transactions than on paid shipping transactions, including a 51-percent higher average order value during the week ending Nov. 25.

“Though retailers must often sacrifice margins when they provide free shipping, they benefit because consumers tend to spend significantly more on those transactions,” Fulgoni added. “Consumers may either be responding to the minimum spending thresholds needed in order to receive free shipping, or figure that as long as they know they’re receiving free shipping it might be worth adding another item or two to their shopping basket.”