comScore: $6 billion in ‘Cyber Week’ online spending sets record

Reston, Va. -- Retail e-commerce spending for the first 32 days of the November – December 2011 holiday season totaled $18.7 billion, a 15% increase versus the corresponding days last year, according to comScore.

The most recent week saw three individual days eclipse $1 billion in spending, led by Cyber Monday, which became the heaviest online spending day on record at $1.25 billion. Tuesday, Nov. 29 reached $1.12 billion, while Wednesday, Nov. 30 reached $1.03 billion. These three billion-dollar spending days currently rank as three of the four heaviest online spending days in history (with Cyber Monday 2010 being the other).

One of the most prevalent holiday season promotions used by online retailers is free shipping, which typically peaks around the Cyber Monday period. Throughout the 2011 holiday season, more than half of all transactions have included free shipping with rates increasing later into the season, comScore said. The week of Thanksgiving (week ending Nov. 27) saw free shipping occur on 64.4% of transactions, while Cyber Week has maintained a similar level at 63.2%. In each case, these rates were approximately 10 percentage points higher than last year.

“Free shipping is one of the most important incentives that online retailers must provide during the holiday season to ensure that shoppers will convert into buyers," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "Consumers have come to expect free shipping during the holiday promotion periods, and retailers, in turn, have realized that they must offer this incentive if they want to maximize their share of consumer spending -- especially at the outset of the shopping season. In fact, more than three-quarters of consumers say that free shipping is important to them when making an online purchase, and nearly half say they will abandon their shopping cart at checkout if they find free shipping is not being offered."