December 5, 2011, 9:33 AM

A record week for e-commerce

Online shoppers spent a record amount on Cyber Monday, but the fun didn’t stop.

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Last week was a record week for e-commerce, with consumers spending at least $1 billion online on three separate days, according to new figures from comScore Inc.  The web measurement firm says three of the four billion-dollar spending days in the history of U.S. e-commerce occurred last week, with the fourth on Cyber Monday 2010. 

Overall, consumers so far this holiday shopping season have spent more than $18.69 billion with online retailers, up 15% from approximately $16.25 billion at the same point last year. That new comScore figure covers online shopping between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2.

Consumers spent $1.25 billion on this year’s Cyber Monday, the first workday after Thanksgiving—and the most successful e-commerce spending day in history—and didn’t let up as the week progressed. Web shoppers spent $1.12 billion on Tuesday and $1.03 billion on Wednesday, comScore says. Marketers have dubbed the first full week after Thanksgiving as Cyber Week.

“Cyber Monday kicked the week off with a bang, but it was only the beginning of a very strong week of online holiday spending,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “As the deals from this week expire, it will be important to see the degree to which consumers return to the same retailers to continue their holiday shopping, thereby helping improve retailers’ profit margins, or if we experience a pullback in consumer spending—which has occurred in previous years—before promotional offers and spending intensity pick back up in earnest around mid-December.”

Free shipping offers have helped to boost spending, comScore says, which estimates that more than half of all online retail transactions so far this holiday season have involved free shipping. 63.2% of online transactions last week included free shipping, up from 52.2% for the same week last year. The rate of free shipping offers last week declined from the Thanksgiving week rate of 64.4%, comScore says, which adds that free shipping offers typically peak around Cyber Monday.

The web measurement firm also says that based on a recent survey of 1,000 online shoppers, 36% of consumers rate free shipping as very important—that is, they will not make purchases without it—with a further 42% rating the promotion as somewhat important, meaning they actively search for free shipping deals.

“Consumers have come to expect free shipping during the holiday promotion periods, and retailers, in turn, have realized that they must offer this incentive if they want to maximize their share of consumer spending—especially at the outset of the shopping season,” says Fulgoni.

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