The newly released annual look at the digital world from online and mobile measurement firm comScore makes it quite clear that retailers better be ...
After three quarters in negative territory, a strong holiday season brought 2009 online retail sales up to the level of 2008, comScore says. Counting travel, consumer e-commerce spending was down 2%, the first year ever of negative growth.
A strong holiday season kept online retail from finishing 2009 in negative territory, and offers hope for a better year for e-retailers in 2010, web measurement firm comScore Inc. said in a report released today.
E-retail sales trailed the prior year for most of 2009, but year-over-year gains of a few percentage points in November and December allowed e-retail to finish the year at $129.8 billion in sales, essentially unchanged from $130.1 billion in 2008. The holiday season comeback “does suggest that the tides of consumer sentiment are beginning to turn and that 2010 may be a healthier year for retail e-commerce,” noted comScore’s report, “The 2009 U.S. Digital Year in Review.”
Despite the fall-off from growth rates that were consistently in double digits before slipping to 6% in 2008, the web remains a relative bright spot for retailers, comScore says. “New buyers continue to enter the channel, and as average spending per buyer rebounds off its 2009 lows, the e-commerce channel should return to healthy growth rates,” the report says.
While e-retail held steady in 2009, online travel sales declined 5% to $79.8 billion. That resulted in total consumer e-commerce spending falling 2% to $209.6 billion in 2009, the first decline ever, comScore says.
The report notes that only a handful of online retail categories registered higher sales in 2009. Leading the way was books and magazines, which grew by 12%, followed by computer software (excluding PC games) 7%; sports and fitness 6%; jewelry and watches 4%; video games, consoles and accessories 3%; consumer electronics 3%; and computers, peripherals and PDAs 1%.
More consumers searched online in 2009, and they searched more often. The number of unique individuals who searched increased 6% and searches per individual searcher increased 10%, resulting in a 16% gain in total search queries. Microsoft improved to a 10.7% search market share from 8.3% on the strength of the launch last year of its new Bing search engine. But Google remained dominant, accounting for 65.7% of searches in December 2009, comScore says.
Other trends noted in the report were more consumers participating in online social networks, viewing online video and purchasing high-end mobile phones that can access the web.
- Four out of five Internet users visited a social networking site in December, and social networks now account for 11% of web activity, comScore says. Facebook is by far the most-visited social network, with 111.9 million unique visitors in December, an increase of 105% from the prior year.
- 19% more individuals viewed online video in 2009, and 86% of U.S. Internet users watched a video on the web in December. The average online viewer watched 187 videos in December, up 95% from a year earlier.
- More consumers also can access the web via their increasingly sophisticated mobile phones, the comScore report shows. The penetration of smartphones-computer-like phones such as Apple’s iPhone, and BlackBerry, Palm and Google handsets-increased to 17% of U.S. mobile subscribers by December 2009, up from 11% a year earlier.