December 19, 2011, 10:02 AM

Four more $1 billion days

Four of the five workdays last week topped $1 billion in online sales, comScore says.

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Four of the five workdays last week topped $1 billion in online retail sales, comScore reported yesterday. For the holiday season, e-commerce remains nearly 15% ahead of last year, although the growth pace is slowing from the explosive gains around Thanksgiving weekend.

Holiday season retail sales for Nov. 1 through Friday, Dec. 16, total $30.937 billion, up 14.95% from $26.914 billion in the comparable period last year, according to comScore, which makes estimates based on tracking the online activity of a panel of 1 million U.S. consumers.

The heaviest online shopping days last week were Monday, when sales hit $1.13 billion and Friday, a day when 2,300 e-retailers took part in the Free Shipping Day promotion organized by FreeShipping.org, when shoppers spent $1.07 billion at retail web sites.

ComScore notes that the year-over-year growth rates for major e-retail promotions have slowed in the past couple of weeks. For example, Friday—Free Shipping Day—was up 14% over 2010 and last Monday—which some marketers hopefully dubbed Green Monday—was up 19%. By contrast, the Friday after Thanksgiving, often called Black Friday, saw online sales increase 26% over the same day last year and sales the following Monday, often called Cyber Monday, were 22% ahead of 2010. Cyber Monday remains the heaviest online shopping day of 2011, at $1.251 billion.

Although there may be a few more strong online sales days this week, “it’s clear that we have now reached the crescendo for this season and that spending will begin to slow as we get closer to Christmas, leaving Cyber Monday as the top-ranked shopping day for the second year in a row,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

ComScore also notes that free shipping offers rebounded last week, with 56.0% of online purchases carrying no shipping charges for the week ended Friday, Dec. 16, up from 52.2% during the comparable period last year. Last week’s percentage also represented an increase from 53.0% for the week ended Dec. 11, 2011, 59.4% for the week ended Dec. 4 and 64.4% for the week ended Nov. 27, which was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

“This season has seen a continuation of the trend where an increasing percentage of transactions involve free shipping, as more consumers demand it and more retailers provide it,” Fulgoni says. “During the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Week we saw at least three in five transactions use free shipping, significantly higher rates than we’ve ever previously observed.” Cyber Week refers to the week following Thanksgiving weekend.

Another company that tracks the sales of some 500 major online retailers reported today that e-retail sales at those e-commerce sites were up 10.8% for the week ended Dec. 11 over the same week in 2010. IBM Corp.'s IBM Benchmark survey, based on data from its Coremetrics analytics unit, shows mobile devices accounted for 12.1% of site traffic during that week, up from 5.0% a year earlier, and 8.9% of those retailers' sales came from smartphones and tablets, up from 3.8%. IBM projects online sales will grow in December by 9.5-10% over December 2010.

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