While holiday sales overall were solid during the season just ended, a real bright spot was online where sales advanced 13% to a record level of nearly $31 billion, according to the online measurement firm comScore. For the 56-day period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 26, comScore data showed consumers turned to the Internet in record numbers, especially on such key days as Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday and the final day of free shipping on Dec.17 when online volumes surged 61% to $942 million. This season saw its first billion-dollar sales day on Cyber Monday when sales hit $1,028 billion, a 16% increase from the prior year’s $887 million.
Commenting on the record level of spending, comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni noted, “For at least this holiday season, the American consumer bas been able to shrug off the continuing economic challenges of high unemployment rate and depressed housing prices and spend at a rate that has been slightly stronger than we had expected.”
The firm’s initial holiday sales forecast called for 11% growth and sales of $32.4 billion, a figure that is expected to be easily surpassed once the final tally including the entire month of December is available, especially as late December blizzards sent shoppers online to redeem gift cards.
Given the strength seen during this past season it is not exactly the boldest of predictions to forecast that online sales during the 2011 holiday season will be even stronger. How much stronger remains unclear, but the trend is certainly obvious. Shopping overall and the holidays in particular have become technology enabled to the point where a huge segment of the population demands retailers provide a highly integrated brand experience and those who do so most effectively have results to show for it.
Even so, considerable work remains to ensure the experience for the increasing number of channel agnostic shoppers is simple, seamless and functioning smoothly. It was hard enough to meet that execution challenge when only physical stores were involved, but layer on the added complexity of the Internet and mobile thrown and shoppers heightened expectations in those areas and retailers will have plenty to work on throughout 2011 in preparation for the next holiday season.