More customers chose to point and click rather than park and swipe this Christmas season, with a five percent increase in online shopping over the same period last year, a study by the Internet marketing firm comScore says. By comparison, in-store retail shopping grew only 3.6 percent, according to credit-card spending tracked by Mastercard Advisor's' Spending Pulse.
"Overall this year, we have seen increasing stability in spending, as opposed to the free fall of 2008," noted Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse.
Cyber Monday A Success
Cyber Monday, the day after the Thanksgiving weekend when online retailers usually offer their best deals and, often, free shipping, raked in $885 million, up five percent from last year's $834 million.
A significant share of the online boost was in electronics sales, which grew by slightly more than 20 percent, with jewelry and watches also producing solid sales. Overall, an estimated $27 billion was spent online.
Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association, attributed the sales boost to better marketing and promotion by retailers.
"Sellers are trying different things other than just the usual loss-leader approach," Koenig said. "They have used a number of market plays old and new to coax consumers to open their wallets, and the data we have so far suggests they have been successful."
One such successful tactic, Koenig said, is bundling, or selling multiple, related products at one price. For example, he said Best Buy offered a Hewlett-Packard PC, monitor, notebook and netbook, plus a wireless router with home installation for about $1,200.
But he said while unit sales climbed this year, the revenue generated fell because of the abundance of lower-priced items.
"There were fewer large-screen TVs, but more midsize models in the 20- to 30-inch range sold," he said. "I also think there is some trading down going on. Instead of buying name brands, people are buying private labels such as the Insignia brand at Best Buy, which can deliver some savings to the consumer."
During the period from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, to Christmas, online spending was up 3.5 percent from 2008, with the data adjusted for an additional shopping day.
Last year, overall online spending dropped three percent.
The data was gathered from a panel of shoppers who agreed to have their spending habits tracked by the marketing company from Nov. 1 through Christmas.
While the data suggest good news about the economic recovery, comScore cautions that while more people appear to have shopped online this year, the average amount they spent was less than last year.
"Online sales growth this year was driven by a continued increase in the number of people buying online, but consumers' economic challenges resulted in a slight decline versus last year in the amount spent per buyer," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "The season featured a strong start as a result of early retailer promotions and a very strong finish helped by the snowstorms that occurred the weekend of Dec 19-20."
Fulgoni also cited the extension of free shipping later in the season and retailers' use of social-networking tools.
Amazon Most Satisfying
Another study of online shoppers by ForeSee results found that Amazon.com led e-retailers in customer satisfaction, with 87 percent of respondents expressing no regrets about their transactions with the company. That's a four percent jump from last year's rating and a new benchmark for the study.
Overall, e-customer satisfaction with the top 40 retail sites by sales volume was up seven percent from last year.
Increases in satisfaction of 10 percent or more compared to last year were reported by customers who ordered from Macy's, Sony Style, The Gap, The Home Shopping Network, and Overstock.com.