November 9, 2011, 11:20 AM

E-retail sales rise 13% in Q3

Online shoppers in the United States spent $36.3 billion in Q3, comScore says.

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Online shoppers in the United States spent $36.3 billion in the third quarter, up 13.1% from the $32.1 billion spent for the same period a year ago, according to figures released today by comScore Inc.

The web measurement firm says the third quarter marks the eight consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth for e-commerce spending, and the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. In the second quarter of 2011, e-commerce spending increased 14% compared with the same period a year ago.

ComScore says most of the growth in the third quarter came from a 22% increase in the number of online buyers. The firm adds that 74% of all web users made at least one online purchase in the third quarter.

“The third quarter of 2011 saw a continuation of the year’s strength in U.S. retail e-commerce spending, even in the face of renewed economic headwinds and uncertainty facing the U.S. consumer,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “As we approach the critical holiday shopping season, we are optimistic about the continued health of the e-commerce sector despite other factors, including stubbornly high unemployment and volatile financial markets. More consumers than ever before are relying on the online channel for product and pricing information, which along with the Internet’s fundamental appeal of convenience and attractive pricing, are contributing to the sustained upward momentum in e-commerce spending.”

For the third quarter, the top-performing online categories includes digital content and subscriptions, event tickets, jewelry and watches, consumer electronics (but not computer peripherals)  and computer software. Spending in each of those categories increased at least 15% compared with the third quarter of 2010.

The comScore report also notes that 40% of online purchases in the third quarter of 2011 included free shipping. That’s down from a peak of 49% for the fourth quarter of 2010, though comScore anticipates an increase in free shipping offers in the fourth quarter of 2011.

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