US online retail (non-travel) spending reached $43.15 billion during Q2 2012, representing a 15% increase from $37.5 billion in Q2 2011, according to new estimates from comScore. This marks the 11th consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and 7th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates. The 15% year-over-year growth rate is slightly lower than Q1’s 17%, but still represents the largest for any second quarter since Q2 2007’s 23% rate. This positive movement means that Q2 retail e-commerce spending, at $43.15 billion, almost matched 2010’s Q4 spend, at $43.4 billion. Traditionally, Q4 spending is close to 33% higher than Q2 spend, given the impact of the holiday season.
Q-O-Q Drop Not Unusual
On a quarter-over-quarter basis, e-commerce sales dropped by about 2.5% from $44.3 billion, a figure almost exactly in line with IBM’s recent estimates of a 2.3% quarter-over-quarter decline in online retail sales. An analysis of the comScore data reveals that a Q2 quarter-over-quarter drop is not unusual, though. For the past 6 years, Q2 spending has declined from Q1 by between 1.3% and 3.1%. While this year’s drop is more severe than the 1.3% drop from last year, quarterly declines have not shown any multi-year trend ,with Q2’s drop at 2.8% in 2007, 1.9% in 2008, 2.8% in 2009, 3.1% in 2010, 1.3% in 2011, and 2.5% this year.
Digital Content, Consumer Electronics Sales Keep Climbing
Meanwhile, comScore identifies the top-performing online categories in Q2 to be: digital content and subscriptions; consumer electronics; flowers, greetings and gifts; computer hardware; and apparel and accessories. Each of these categories grew by at last 16% year-over-year. Two of these categories – digital content and subscriptions and consumer electronics – were also top-performing categories in Q1 (see link above), both increasing by at least 17%.
The fast growth of the flowers, greetings, and gifts category is most likely due to Mother’s Day. In June, comScore reported that this category was the fastest-growing by percentage change of visitors in May 2012, up 23% month-over-month to 28 million visitors. The latest figures from comScore suggest that many of these visits converted into purchases.
Free Shipping Not as Prevalent
In Q2, 42% of e-commerce transactions included free shipping. This represents a 14% drop from 48.8% of transactions in Q1. That Q1 figure had been the highest proportion for any quarter outside a holiday season, with only Q4 2011 (51.8%) and Q4 2010 (49.3%) seeing a higher share of transactions accompanied by free shipping.