December 8, 2010, 12:10 PM

Online holiday sales are up 12%

Consumers have spent more than $17.5 billion online this holiday season, comScore reports.

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The holidays are proving to be the most wonderful time of the year for online retailers, with e-commerce sales having passed $17.5 billion, a 12% jump from the corresponding days a year ago, comScore Inc. reported today.

Consumers have spent more than $800 million on four different days since late November. Leading the way was the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 29, also known as Cyber Monday, which was the heaviest online spending day on record at $1.03 billion. The following day, Nov. 30, was the second heaviest day of spending when consumers spent $911 million.

"We anticipated that the post-Cyber Monday period would experience a slight hangover after many of the retailers' most aggressive deals and promotions expired, but we can expect to see activity begin to pick up again next week as we get into the middle part of December," says Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman.

The web measurement firm says free shipping is helping shift consumer spending online. Since Nov. 1, more than 50% of all online orders have included a free shipping incentive, with the offer peaking at 55.1% of all orders for the week ending Nov. 28. That’s a 20.8% increase from the same week a year ago, when 45.6% of online orders included free shipping. For the week ended this past Sunday, Dec. 5, 51.4% of orders shipped for free, compared with 43.8% in the comparable week in 2009.

“Without a doubt, free shipping has become a critical driver of e-commerce purchasing, with the majority of consumers indicating that they will abandon their shopping carts if they get to check out and find that free shipping is not included,” says Fulgoni. “Retailers have increasingly responded to this consumer demand, with market leaders Amazon and Wal-Mart, for example, both offering free shipping on virtually all transactions this season.”

Retailers are offsetting the margin loss from offering free shipping, he says, because the average order value for transactions with free shipping are an average of 30% higher than those without.

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