May 9, 2012, 2:23 PM

First quarter e-retail growth nears pre-recession levels

Online shoppers spent more than $44 billion in Q1, says comScore.

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Online retail sales increased about 16.6% in the first quarter, to nearly $44.3 billion compared with $38.0 billion for the same period on 2011, comScore Inc. said today. The Q1 spending marks the tenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, the web measurement firm says.

 “While the economic recovery continues to be painfully slow, the channel shift to e-commerce appears to be accelerating,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “This presents opportunities but also challenges for bricks-and-mortar retailers if they can’t hold onto their offline market share in the digital world.”

The comScore report today also says that e-commerce spending increased by at least 17% year over year in the following product categories:  digital content and subscriptions; computer software; consumer electronics; jewelry and watches; and event tickets.

During the first quarter of 2012, nearly half, or 48.8%, of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, the highest percentage comScore has recorded outside the holiday shopping seasons. The firm says it has observed higher rates for free shipping only in the fourth quarter of 2011, when 51.8% of orders carried no shipping charges, and the fourth quarter of 2010, at 49.3%.

ComScore also noted in the report that it had surveyed tablet owners during the first quarter and found that 38% of them said they had made a purchase on their tablet within the past month. The most popular type of product? Apparel.

ComScore makes estimates of e-commerce sales based on tracking the online behavior of some 2 million consumers who agree to be tracked, about half of them in the U.S.

At the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2012, Fulgoni will speak in a session entitled “Identifying the consumers’ sweet spot.” 

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