More Happy Returns for eTailers

By Sean Michael Kerner

Update: Online consumers spent $2.95 billion during the second week of December, up over 48 percent compared to the same time last year, according to new surveys.

Online measurement research firm Comscore, whose measurement period of the early part of December took place during severe Winter storms in the eastern part of the U.S., said the numbers continue to show that Christmas shoppers like the idea of going online in order to avoid a surge in late shopping crowds before the Christmas holiday.

Comscore had previously reported that for the week ending Sunday, December 14, 2003 that Online retail sales to consumers, excluding travel and auction purchases, closed at $2.11 billion an increase of 28% over the previous year.

Meanwhile, the December eSpending Report, based on a weekly national survey of more than 7,100 online shoppers, has found that holiday season spending saw an increase of 46 percent to $13 billion, excluding online travel bookings.

The eSpending report is put out by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings.

Last month’s report showed that consumers were buying more online and were buying earlier than in previous years. With this latest eSpending report, the increase in online spending didn’t appear to be limited to “early-birds,” but to those who shop closer to Christmas Day as well.

“Online holiday shopping started early and we also expect that there will be a strong finish,” said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings. “We saw strong November spending which means more people were shopping online and spending more online,” she told

Bhagat also said the increase means more good tidings for search and comparison engines. “We’re seeing a lot more people starting their shopping experience with Google or or eBay. Last year people were shopping in the early part for lower prices toward the later part they were shopping online because of the convenience factor. We see that also this year, but we’re also seeing that the product comparison and research is pretty big this year.”

The lastest December eSpending Report continues to show similar trends, including a rise in overall shopping satisfaction and continued growth across multiple channels.

The eSpending report offers weekly intelligence on online shopping and spending by market segment and also tracks consumer attitudes and motivations that drive online shopping.

Apparel and Books were big category gainers in the survey period compared to last year, up by 35 percent and 33 percent respectively.
Not far behind were Toys and Video Games category with a 27 percent jump from the same time last year. The Consumer Electronics category rose by 12 percent.

Consumers’ online shopping budgets are also expanding. According to the report, for the six weeks ending Dec. 12, shoppers spent 20.5 percent of their 2003 holiday budget online. The number represents a 4.1 percent increase over the same period last year.

Yet despite the bigger share of pocketbooks now devoted to online shopping, the report found an identical 4.1 percent increase in overall online consumer satisfaction, although the majority of the survey group, 62 percent, said they were satisfied with their overall online shopping experience. The 6.8 percent who reported they were dissatisfied with their onling shopping experience were down 1.2 percent from the same time last year.

JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia, which is the parent company of this publication, had previously forecast that total online holiday retail sales this season will be about $17 billion, a 21 percent increase over online consumer spending in 2002.

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