Online sets new sales record

Online sales increased 15% to $35.3 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 25 compared with the same time period the prior year, according to the online measurement firm comScore.

“Holiday e-commerce spending has remained strong throughout the season, and we have now reached a record $35 billion in U.S. online sales for the season-to-date,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “We can now say with certainty that the $1.25 billion spent on Cyber Monday will rank it as the heaviest online spending day of the season for the second consecutive year, but we should also note that it was accompanied by nine other billion dollar spending days this year.”

Walmart was a likely beneficiary of the shift to digital based on early season traffic numbers. Walmart.com’s traffic in November surged to 58.5 million unique visitors compared with the prior November’s 51.8 million unique visitors. Conversely, Target.com, which experienced some difficulties with a major relaunch, experienced 40.2 million unique visitors or roughly the same number as the prior year.

Some interesting trends have emerged from the holiday season that are sure to impact strategies already in development for holiday 2012. For starters, look for even more Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday promotions as traffic on both days continues to experience dramatic growth. Another interesting e-commerce phenomena occurring over the past several years is the dramatic increase in Christmas Day purchases of digital content and subscriptions, a retail category that includes digital downloads of music, TV, movies, e-books and apps, according to comScore. Not surprisingly, as many consumers receive new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and digital content gift certificates for Christmas, they spend Christmas Day loading up their devices with new content.

On an average day during the 2011 holiday season-to-date (Nov. 1 to Dec. 26), digital content and subscriptions accounted for 2.8%of retail e-commerce sales, but on Christmas Day the category accounted for more than 20% of sales. Consistent with past years, comScore expected sales for this category of products to remain elevated throughout the entire week following Christmas Day.