Retail e-commerce sales totaled about $39 billion in Q4 2009, according to data from digital marketing firm comScore. This represents 2% growth compared to $38.1 billion in Q4 2008 and 32% growth compared to $29.6 billion in Q3 2009, and follows three consecutive quarters of negative growth.
Retail e-commerce sales dropped 7% in Q3 2009, 9% in Q2 2009, and 10% in Q1 2009. For the entire year, retail e-commerce sales remained flat at $130 billion, buoyed by the relatively strong fourth quarter performance.
No Clear Trends in Popular Categories
There were no clear trends, and a few surprises, in e-commerce sales performance of individual product categories in Q4 2009. Jewelry and watches, which are highly individualized purchases and require some degree of fitting, were up. More expectedly, consumer electronics, computer software, event tickets and books and magazines were also all up.
Some other products that are not personalized or individualized were only marginally up last quarter. These include computers/peripherals/PDAs, music, movies and videos, and sport and fitness equipment.
Categories that were marginally down for the quarter include home and garden, furniture, appliances and equipment, apparel and accessories, and flowers, greetings and miscellaneous gifts. Less expectedly, video games, consoles and accessories were also marginally down.
Online sales of toys and hobbies were down, despite a strong 2009 holiday retail e-commerce season (see below). One possible explanation is the heavy price cutting many discount and dollar store retailers, including Wal-Mart, performed in the toys and hobbies categories during the past holiday season.
Key Trends for 2010
comScore has identified several key retail e-commerce trends for 2010:
- Sixty-one percent of consumers identified current economic conditions as poor in January 2010, compared to 77% in January 2009.
- Despite this improvement, 25% of consumers believe the economy has not hit bottom yet, and another 23% think it may drop again before fully recovering. Only 9% of consumers think a recovery will continue with no significant problems.
- Thirty-six million people visited a digital coupon site in December 2009, representing 20% annual growth in total visits and 8% annual growth in unique visitors.
- Supermarket retailers tend to attract few visitors to their e-commerce sites.
Holiday E-commerce Sales Rise 4%
During the 63-day holiday shopping period between November 1 and December 31, 2009, U.S. consumers spent $29.1 billion online, according to previous research from comScore. As reported by Retailer Daily, this marked a 4% increase from $27.9 billion U.S. consumers spent online during the equivalent period in 2008.
By comparison, e-commerce sales fell 3% during the 2008 holiday season. According to comScore, online sales growth last year was driven by a late-season spending splurge, as well as a positive start as a result of early retailer promotions and a strong finish helped by the snowstorms that occurred the weekend of December 19-20, 2009, retailers’ willingness to offer free shipping later in the season, and consumers’ confidence in expedited shipping arriving in time. comScore said 2009 holiday e-commerce sales grew slightly better than originally forecast, which may be a sign of continued positive e-commerce sales performance into 2010.
Digital Coupon Growth Outpaces Inserts
During 2009, the growth rate of digital coupons outpaced the typical annual growth rate of free standing insert (FSI) coupons by a factor of more than 10-1, according to Coupons.com.
Coupons.com annual data indicates that savings US consumers obtained from digital coupons grew 170% in 2009, compared to a typical annual growth rate of 8-16% for FSI coupons. Printed savings from Coupons.com and the Coupons.com digital coupon network in 2009 exceeded $858 million, a 170% increase from more than $300 million in 2008. According to Coupons.com, key factors influencing the growth included increased consumer adoption of online printable, save to store loyalty card and mobile coupons and increased use of digital coupons by brand marketers, including manufacturers and retailers alike.
About the Survey: comScore obtained Q4 2009 retail e-commerce sales data from a global panel of 2 million internet users and included all worldwide buying on U.S. e-commerce sites.