Online shoppers push 2011 holiday spending up 14%

A lot of Americans took their holiday shopping online last year, which helped push e-commerce spending up 14% in the last quarter.

Online retail spending hit $49.7 billion last quarter, compared with $43 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to comScore, Inc., an online tracking firm. That growth marked the ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth and the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.

ComScore also noted that U.S. e-commerce spending reached a record $161.5 billion for all of 2011, a 13% increase over 2010.

"The fourth quarter of 2011 capped off what was yet another strong year for online retail, one in which every quarter achieved double-digit increases versus the prior year," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, in a statement. "In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs."

The key reasons that consumers did so much of their buying online were "price and convenience," added Fulgoni. "And unless those conditions change, we can expect to see more channel-shifting to online in 2012 and perhaps even an acceleration in the current growth trend."

Online retailers soaked in the incoming business in the year's biggest shopping season last November and December.

Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving, CyberMonday, the first business day after Thanksgiving, were among the biggest sales days for online retailers.

Black Friday, for instance, raked in $816 million in U.S. online sales, according to a comScore report. That one day's online sales revenues represented a 26% spending increase compared to the same day in 2010.

However, there were 10 days in the fourth quarter that saw more than $1 billion in online sales, according to comScore. CyberMonday, which was Nov. 28, was the leader with $1.25 billion. The following Monday, Dec. 5, was second with $1.17 billion, followed by Green Monday, Dec. 12, with $1.13 billion.

The figures were in keeping with a Harris poll of 2,500 U.S. adults conducted in early November showing that three out of 10 Americans said they were going to do most of their 2011 holiday shopping online.

"Online retail has reached the tipping point," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, in a previous interview. "There's a tipping point from the point when your first option is a local store ... to when online does a better job on price and selection ... Then online becomes the default and local becomes the backup."

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