$21.4 billion and counting: online sales surge continues

Online holiday sales continue to set new sales records, according to digital measurement firm comScore, and Walmart is presumably sharing in that growth given its site typically ranks second only to Amazon in terms of traffic.

Online sales during the first 32 days of the holiday season increased 14% to $21.4 billion with growth fueled by a combination of more online shoppers and increased spending per shopper, comScore announced this week. Three individual days have eclipsed $1 billion in spending, led by Cyber Monday, which became the heaviest online spending day on record at $1.46 billion, a 17% increase from the prior year. Even though growth rates softened considerably in the wake of Cyber Monday and through the past weekend, percentage gains for the November 26-30 period known as Cyber Week still were in the double digits, up 11% from the prior year to $5.5 billion.

"While Cyber Monday was a high point for holiday e-commerce spending and Cyber Week saw several strong spending days, there was a clear softening in the growth rate during the back half of the week," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "It is likely that, to some extent, holiday spending was pulled forward to the Thanksgiving-Black Friday period given the heightened promotional activity around that time. And some of the softening is a natural post-Cyber Monday lull that we often experience, an effect that may be somewhat more pronounced this year given the additional shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, as the urgency to finish one’s holiday shopping increases we expect to see growth rates pick up again in the next couple of weeks before Christmas."

An analysis by the firm of holiday spending demonstrates how various components are contributing to the current 14% growth rate. So far, spending growth is being driven both by an increase in the number of buyers, up 9% to 128.7 million, and average spending per buyer, up 5% to $165.90. The increase in spending per buyer is coming primarily from an increase in the number of transactions, up 4% to 2.19 per buyer, as opposed to the amount spent per transaction, up only 1% to $75.90.

"That we are seeing growth come from an increase in both the number of buyers and the average spending per buyers suggests broad-based strength in the e-commerce sector," Fulgoni said. "It reflects not only the health of the e-commerce channel as more people buy online, but also the health of the consumer who has been willing to spend more online this year than last. It’s particularly noteworthy that half of the online population has made an e-commerce purchase thus far in the holiday season"