Online Holiday Sales a Record $8.8 Billion

Consumers spent a whopping US$8.8 billion in online shopping purchases this holiday season, a 24 percent increase over the year-ago period from Thanksgiving through December 27, according to VeriSign. It’s a record-breaking year, and analysts said the future of e-commerce looks bright.

The average price of an online purchase through Wednesday, December 22, of this holiday season reached $178. Additionally, the final five shopping days to Christmas accounted for $1.5 billion in online purchases, according to VeriSign.

“The spending held through the last week of the shopping season. We saw no dip in the last few days before Christmas,” Trevor Healy, vice president of payment services for VeriSign, told the E-Commerce Times. “The total of almost $9 billion is a record, with virtually every indicator showing growth.”

Full Category Comparisons

“The most interesting indicator of confidence in the online network is the fact that average ticket value was $178,” he noted. “That’s very high. Long-gone are the days of CDs and books as the primary driver for online sales. Now that we see these types of numbers, you are getting into the maturity phase of the network. The early adopter phase is definitely over.”

Online transactions for the electronics category increased 17percent for the entire holiday shopping season as compared to 2003. This category picked up steam as the season progressed, with a 4 percent increase as of December 12 and a 12 percent increase as of December 19. The category also carried an average ticket price of $291, the highest average price of all categories.

Online transactions for the apparel category increased 45 percent as compared to 2003. Women’s apparel represented the largest portion of this category, accounting for 40 percent of the total sales this season. Women’s apparel also showed the highest increase in average ticket price, increasing 28 percent to $140 this year as compared to the 2003 online holiday shopping season.

Content is proving it is still a king in the online shopping realm. Onlinetransactions for the entertainment category (music and video downloads) increased 54 percent as compared to 2003. Online transactions related to the photo-printing-and-sharing category increased 120 percent compared to 2003. This was the fastest growing of all categories tracked, according to VeriSign.

Consumer Comfort

“Content has really arrived. Music and video was a huge category, along with photo-printing-and-sharing,” Healy said. “Now people are more comfortable with tangible items as well as hard goods. That’s a big milestone and a big indicator of confidence in the network.”

Online transactions for the general retail category increased 24 percent as compared to 2003. The kitchen-and-housewares subcategory held the highest share of this category, at 28 percent. Kitchen-and-housewares also held one of the season’s highest average ticket prices at $148 — second only to the electronics category.

“The 2004 online holiday shopping season has proved highly successful,” Healy said. “From spikes in merchant categories to new shopping phenomena like ‘Black Monday,’ we continue to observe the impact the online marketplace has on traditional shopping-behavior patterns.” “Black Monday” refers to the heavy amount of online shopping on the Monday following Thanksgiving.

Consistent with previously observed consumer online shopping behavior, Mondays again were the busiest shopping day of the weeks. For example, Monday, December 20, was the peak online shopping day from that week, accounting for 4.8 million transactions, representing more than 23 percent of the week’s activity.

Transaction Volume Up

In the brick-and-mortar world, retailers now expect that December 26, the day after Christmas, will draw a large number of consumers to their stores. This year, December 26 fell on a Sunday, a day of the week with historically low online shopping activity. Therefore, the equivalent spike in online shopping activity occurred on Monday, December 27, the first weekday following Christmas.

The total volume of transactions recorded on December 27 was 3.8 million, a 61 percent increase as compared to Friday, December 26, 2003 (the first weekday following Christmas in 2003). This also represented an 8 percent increase as compared to Monday, December 29, 2003 (the first Monday following Christmas 2003).

The average sale amount during the time-period from Thanksgiving through Monday, December 27, was $145, a 12 percent increase as compared to the same time period in 2003.

VeriSign’s latest statistics are based on the analysis of online salesvolume processed through VeriSign Payment Services, which comprises more than 35 percent of all North American e-commerce and represents in excess of 120,000 online retailers.

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