Web sales will increase up to 18% this holiday season, comScore predicts.
Katie Evans , Senior Editor
ComScore Inc. is forecasting a happy holiday sales season for U.S. web retailers. The web measurement firm predicts that e-commerce sales will increase 15% to 18% this holiday shopping season compared with 2011. That forecast means 2012 holiday growth could beat least year’s online sales growth of 15%, comScore said this week in its “State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q3 2012” webinar.
Last year, online holiday shoppers spent nearly $37.2 billion, up 15% from the approximately $32.4 billion spent in 2010, comScore says. The firm’s growth projection for this year would put online sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 between $42.78 billion and $43.89 billion. One factor helping web sales this year is that there are two extra shopping days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, comScore says. ComScore tracks the online purchasing behavior of 1 million consumers U.S. consumers.
For this holiday season, social media and showrooming will play big roles in consumers’ purchasing decisions, said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis for comScore, during this week’s web presentation. “Pinterest has more than 20 million more monthly visitors than it did going into last holiday season,” Lipsman said. Pinterest is a social network where consumers can share or “pin” items, such as a pair of Ugg boots. Those pins often come with a brief description or caption that appears below an image of the pinned item.
Additionally, nearly four in 10, or 37%, of consumers comScore polled this year say they participated in showrooming, Lipsman said. Only a fraction of that amount answered “Yes” to that question when comScore didn’t describe what showrooming was, illustrating that many consumers don’t use the term to describe browsing in stores and then buying online. Showrooming refers to consumers using their smartphones to compare prices and research products while shopping inside stores.
The big online shopping days are only getting bigger, comScore also notes. Last year, U.S. online shoppers spent $1.25 billion on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when many consumers head back to work and start holiday shopping on the web. That’s up 22% from a year earlier. Online holiday sales on Cyber Monday have swelled 105% over the past five years, while web sales over the entire holiday shopping season have grown 51% since 2006, comScore says. Web sales on Thanksgiving Day, meanwhile, have grown 128% over the same time period.
Consumers plan to power up their PCs not only for giving gifts but to research what they would like waiting under the tree for themselves, as well. A poll of 2,632 consumers by shopping app Catalog Spree finds 74% of consumers plan to search online in order to gain ideas and inspiration for building out their wish lists, and 69% plan to use digital catalogs.
When it comes to crossing gifts off their buying lists, shoppers aren’t procrastinating, the poll also finds. Nearly three-quarters of consumers (74%) have already started their holiday shopping and are not waiting for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and a day that many mark as the official beginning of the holiday shopping season. Early November is the most popular time of year to begin gift shopping, with 29% of consumers starting their holiday shopping then. Only 13% of women wait until December to shop, while 19% of men do, the poll finds. 52.8% of Americans have already started their holiday shopping, up from 51.4% last year, according to a poll of 9,383 consumers by the National Retail Federation, a trade association.
Other research finds a good portion of shoppers want to savor their turkey dinners and think about Christmas shopping after they’ve polished off Thanksgiving leftovers. Nearly one-third (31%) of U.S. adults think Black Friday starts too early now compared with previous years, as a growing number of retail chains open their stores to shoppers Thursday, according to a new survey of 2,231 U.S. adults aged 18 and older conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of coupon and deal site CouponCabin.com.
Two in five (40%) of U.S. adults in that poll plan to shop either online or in-store this Black Friday. On the flip side, 60% said they aren't sure or don't plan to shop on Black Friday. Some others shop the big Black Friday sales every year, as 16% of respondents say it's a tradition in their family.
21% of those who plan to shop in stores or online on Black Friday plan to spend more this year than they did last year. 52% plan to spend the same amount, while the rest plan to spend less, the CouponCabin poll finds.
Another poll brings promising news for e-retailers anxious to see big sales numbers on Cyber Monday when shoppers head back to the office. Only about a third of chief information officers interviewed by staffing firm Robert Half Technology say their companies block access to online shopping sites–down from 60% last year. Another 55% say they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use. And 10% report that their firms allow unrestricted access. The survey is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 chief information officers of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees.
Those employees who do head online to shop when they head back to work will likely be buying gift cards, apparel and accessories, toys and jewelry, according to the NRF poll.
Nearly six in 10 (59.7%) consumers will splurge on fashion and apparel items and other accessories, the study finds. About the same amount (59.2%) will buy gift cards, which are also the most requested gift item, according to earlier consumer research by the trade group. Children will also benefit this holiday season–45.1% of consumers say they will buy toys. Additionally, 22.5% of shoppers plan to purchase something sparkly as a gift the year, the highest amount since 2007.
Other popular gifts this season include books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (51.5%), electronics (31.7%), personal care or beauty items (24.4%) and food and candy (32.6%).
And consumers will whip out their debit cards more than their credit cards to make those purchases, the NRF finds. 43.4% will rely on debit cards as their primary form of payment, the study finds. An additional 25.2% will use cash. 28.7% will pay for their gifts with credit cards and the rest will pay with a check.
When looking to nab that perfect, thoughtful gift, 47.3% of consumers say they will look for holiday gift ideas online, the NRF poll shows. 13.3% will head to Facebook and 5.8% will use Pinterest for gift ideas. Coming in a close second is in-store inspiration, at 45.2%. Other ways consumers will find gift ideas are: advertising circulars (36.2%), television (35.4%) and friends and family (40.4%). And, more than one-third (34.1%) of consumers say they will seek ideas from an old standby—catalogs.