December 26, 2013, 12:08 PM

Two takes on holiday web sales

IBM says online retail sales grew 37% year over year last weekend. ComScore says the weekend was disappointing, and that web purchases by consumers using computers, not mobile devices, are now up only 10%. Meanwhile, some delivery services didn't make holiday deadlines.

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E-commerce spending in the United States increased 9.8% year over year during the holiday shopping season, comScore Inc. says in its latest web spending report. The estimate from the web measurement firm covers the period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 22, and includes only desktop sales, not mobile sales.

IBM, meanwhile, says that online sales last weekend (Friday through Sunday) increased 37% versus the comparable weekend a year ago. IBM gave no spending figures but bases its estimate on data from about 800 IBM clients the company includes in its IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Survey.

IBM says online sales on Christmas Day were up 16.5% versus a year ago.

ComScore tracks desktop e-retail holiday sales estimates by drawing on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales.

Despite the year-over-year growth in the days leading up to Christmas, late season e-commerce sales came in under expectations, says comScore Inc. chairman Gian Fulgoni. “Our expectations for the online holiday shopping season anticipated that consumers would spend heavily later into the season out of necessity to make up for the highly compressed holiday shopping calendar this year,” he says. There were six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year from last year. “Unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the final online shopping week saw considerably softer sales than anticipated, including zero billion dollar spending days--although Monday and Tuesday came close,” Fulgoni says.

The last billion-dollar sales day recorded through Dec. 22 was Friday, Dec. 13, comScore says.

Despite that apparent softness, it appears Santa’s sleigh got a little overloaded in recent days. UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. say they were not able to deliver some packages that were shipped for delivery by Christmas. UPS says a late-season surge in e-retail sales contributed to the delivery problem and that the volume overwhelmed its systems. Both shippers say they are endeavoring to deliver any late packages today.

“UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination; however, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed,” a service update posted to UPS’ web site said Christmas Day.

Both FedEx and UPS had advertised to consumers that the last day they could ship for Christmas Eve delivery was Dec. 23. UPS said last week that its peak week for delivery volume was Dec. 16-20. UPS said in October that it expected total package volume to rise 3% to 5% during the holidays. Inc., the largest e-retailer by sales in North America, is offering some consumers who didn’t get their orders on time gift cards for their trouble, although a spokeswoman says the e-retailer isn’t at fault. “Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery,” a spokeswoman says. “We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.” UPS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. FedEx says it experienced no major disruptions in the week before Christmas “despite heavy volume.”

Amazon set 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 21 as the cut-off for Dec. 24 delivery, although it did successfully deliver orders placed later. The e-retailer says today that an order placed at 12:26 p.m. PT on Christmas Eve requesting Amazon’s Local Express Delivery service was delivered at 3:56 p.m. the same day to a consumer in Everett, WA. Local Express Delivery is a fulfillment option offered by Amazon to consumers in 10 metropolitan markets for an additional fee. Amazon typically uses local couriers, not major carriers, for such deliveries.

Amazon today also said that more than 1 million consumers signed up for Prime in the third week of December. Amazon does not release full membership numbers for Prime but estimates from analysts put membership at between 10 million and 15 million.

The e-retailer also said that:

• Consumers worldwide ordered more than 36.8 million items on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

• More than half of Amazon customers shopped this holiday season with mobile devices.

• Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, customers using mobile devices orders more than five toys per second via Amazon.


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