Comscore reports higher e-commerce, mobile media usage

SNEWS takes a look at Comscore’s latest figures on e-commerce and mobile phone usage in the retail market. Consumer activity from both sectors were up in 2010.
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Two recent reports out by Comscore showed increased U.S. retail consumer activity on the web and Smartphones in 2010.

Comscore, which tracks digital business, said consumers spent a quarterly record of $43.4 billion through U.S. retail e-commerce during the fourth quarter 2010. Click here to read the report. The figure represented an 11 percent jump in U.S. e-commerce sales from the fourth quarter 2009. The quarterly rise was the largest since the second quarter 2008.

The top-performing online product categories in the fourth quarter 2010 were computer software (excluding games), consumer electronics, books and magazines (excluding digital downloads), computers/peripherals/PDAs and toys and hobbies, the Comscore report said. It noted that 84 percent of U.S. Internet users conducted an online transaction in fourth quarter 2010, up from 78 percent a year ago.

For the full year 2010, e-commerce retail sales came in at nearly $142.5 billion – up 9.8 percent from a year ago.

More Smartphone users

In a separate report, Comscore said Smartphone penetration increased in 2010, leading to increased activity of mobile media, including visits to online retail sites. Click here to read the report.

“In December 2010, nearly 47 percent of mobile subscribers in the U.S. were mobile media users (browsed the mobile web, accessed applications, downloaded content or accessed the mobile Internet via SMS) – up 7.6 percentage points from the previous year,” the report said, based on its survey of 10,000 mobile phone owners.

Online retail activity from mobile phones was one of the fastest growing – at 53 percent to about 15 million users – during a three-month average in 2010 versus 2009, Comscore said, but lags other fast-growing mobile categories, such as social networking, in total usage (see chart, below).

In-store mobile phone use

Looking ahead to 2011, Comscore expects to see more consumers using their mobile phones to obtain real-time price and product information in brick-and-mortar stores.

“It is very possible that the use of mobile devices could accelerate the shift of consumer spending from offline to online,” the report said. “As such, multi-channel retailers need to carefully assess the buying activity of their in-store customers and devise strategies to ensure that they maintain their loyalty if these customers shift some of their buying requirements from offline to online as a result of the use of mobile devices.”

Comscore also expects to see increased in-store payments via the consumers’ mobile phone, as that technology continues to grow.

One caveat

The Comscore report expects mobile media use to continue in 2011 and beyond, but noted that a change in mobile phone data plans could affect the market.

In 2010, mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans grew to 29 percent, up from 21.3 percent in 2009. The unlimited data plans encouraged more mobile online activity, Comscore said.

But as cellular networks begin to clog because of that increased use, some carriers are switching back to limited data plans.

“If plans become too restrictive or expensive," the report said, "it is possible that the rate of growth could slow down in the U.S."

--David Clucas

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