May 27, 2010, 10:36 AM

Low- and high-income consumers drive e-sales growth, comScore reports

Consumers with yearly incomes under $50,000 increased online spending in Q1 2010 compared to Q1 2009 by 18%; those with incomes over $100,000 increased their spending by 14%. Those in the middle grew their spending by 3%, comScore reports.

Growth in online sales in 2010’s first quarter was driven by high- and low-income consumers, web measurement firm comScore Inc. reported today. Consumers with yearly incomes under $50,000 increased their online spending in Q1 2010 compared to Q1 2009 by 18%; those with incomes over $100,000 increased their online spending by 14%. Meanwhile, those in the middle grew their spending by 3%.

The top and bottom income categories accounted for 90% of growth in online sales, Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman, said today during a webinar reporting the details of comScore’s quarterly report on online spending. “The under-$50,000 households are returning to the spending levels they were at before the recessionary times took hold,” Fulgoni said.

The lowest- and highest-income consumers had big swings in spending growth compared to a year ago. Last year, the under-$50,000 group decreased its online spending 10% compared to a year earlier; the $100,000+ consumers grew their spending by only 3%. The middle group grew its spending in Q1 2009 year over year by 2% and this year by 3%.

Online retail sales grew 10% to $33.98 billion in the first quarter, marking the first time growth rates reached double digits since the second quarter of 2008, comScore reported last week. ComScore gathers its data by monitoring the use of an opt-in panel of Internet users. The U.S. Commerce Department, which surveys merchants, estimates online retail sales grew 14.3% in the first quarter.

ComScore,reports that the largest e-retailers tightened their hold on the market in Q1, accounting for 66.8% of online sales vs. 63.2% a year ago. The latest edition of the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide reports a similar phenomenon: The Top 100 e-merchants accounted for 86.2% of Top 500 retailers’ sales in 2009 vs. 85.8% a year earlier.

Categories with strong growth in the first quarter were Flowers, Gifts and Greeting Cards; Consumer Electronics; Sports and Fitness; Jewelry and Watches; Computers; Home and Garden; Music and Movies; and Videos Games and Consoles. Laggards were Event Tickets and Computer Software.

On the social media front, ComScore reports:

  • Facebook—by itself—accounts for 8% of all time spent online.
  • Users of social media sites spend one and a half times more time online than the average Internet user.
  • 26.3% of all web display advertising takes place on social sites, yet only 10% of retailer’s display advertising is on social sites.
  • Social sites’ cost per thousand consumer impressions is 55 cents, while the average across the Internet is $2.55.
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