Comscore, a leader in measuring digital consumer trends, reported on Nov. 23 that Internet consumer spending at retail was up 9 percent through the end of October 2010 compared to the same period in 2009 ($109.9 billion compared to $100.7 billion). It also projected that online retail sales for November and December, covering the traditional holiday season, would increase 11 percent, from $29.1 billion in 2009 to $32.4 billion in 2010.
Gian Fulgoni, Comscore chairman, stated that while the early spending surge during the first few weeks of November is due in large part to earlier and heavier promotional activity by online retailers, it is still a very "encouraging" sign that consumers appear more willing to shop this year.
When will consumers start shopping?
Just when consumers will actually make their purchases, either online or in-store, remains an open question. In an earlier survey of consumer behavior about all methods of shopping, Comscore found that only 15 percent of consumers were likely to shop before Thanksgiving. Another 11 percent indicated they would shop on Black Friday. Only 5 percent said they would shop on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving), while 9 percent said they were going to start shopping after Cyber Monday. A whopping 32 percent indicated they were not sure when they would start shopping, and 28 percent stated they were waiting for the best deals, likely not beginning to shop until just before the holidays.
How are consumers planning to save money during the holiday shopping season?
Forty-six percent responded that they would be buying less expensive gifts than in 2009, up 1 percent from 2009. Still, 42 percent responded they would be buying fewer gifts, which was down 2 percent from 2009.
Free shipping appears to be a tantalizing carrot, with 30 percent of consumers (up 1 percent from 2009) reporting they would shop online to save money because of free shipping offers.
The biggest shift from 2009 is about when consumers will shop in order to try to save the most money: Nearly 20 percent of consumers indicated they would be shopping later in the holiday season to take advantage of anticipated price reductions. This reflects a 3 percent increase over 2009.
Coupons are very important this year
Perhaps a reflection of a consumer mood that remains cautious about the economy, 84 percent stated that coupons and product discounts are “somewhat to very important” when making a purchasing decision this holiday season. Of that number, 42 percent stated they always searched for discounts and coupons when comparing possible purchases of gifts. Additionally, 32 percent said that they would base a purchasing decision entirely on whether or not a product has a coupon or discount that could be applied. Only 18 percent indicated they would go to a store or an online site first and then seek out coupons.
Putting the e-commerce projections into perspective
While Comscore is bullish on Internet shopping this holiday season, projecting an 11 percent increase, it is worth noting how other consumer shopping research groups feel. Forrester is projecting a 16 percent increase for this holiday season, while Deloitte is predicting a 10 percent increase (it projected a 15 percent increase for mail-order and Internet sales, with two-thirds of that coming from the Internet). Emarketer tracks by the quarter, and projected in Q4, which includes November and December, that Internet sales will increase 14 percent.