Online spending up 14% in 2012 to $186.2B

Faith Merino · February 7, 2013 · Short URL:

2012 sees the largest increase in online spending since the recession

While the 2012 holiday season didn’t quite meet expectations due to everyone’s paralysis in the face of the looming fiscal cliff, it turns out that 2012 was a better year for e-commerce than expected. A report released Thursday by comScore reveals that consumers spent a total of $186.2 billion online in 2012, an increase of 15% over 2011—which represents the largest jump in annual online spending since the beginning of the recession.

A look back over the years shows the explosive growth rate of e-commerce leading up to the bust in 2008. Two quarters in 2007 saw 23% growth rate, and then it was all down-hill from there. Things started gradually picking back up in 2010, but 2012 saw the most gains.

Q4 2012 sales grew 14% year-over-year to $56.8 billion, marking the first time consumers spent more than $50 billion online in a single quarter. It also marks the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth since 2008.

More importantly, e-commerce now represents 10% of total U.S. retail spending—the first time that it has reached double digits. Up till now, e-commerce was estimated to account for 8% of total retail spending in the U.S.

Broken down, comScore says that the 14% year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter was driven by a 6% increase in the number of buyers and an 8% increase in the amount spent per buyer. Beautiful.

“2012 was a year in which – for the most part – e-commerce continued to grow strongly, despite an uneven macroeconomic environment showing signs of recovery but also cause for continued concern,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, in a statement. “The only real blemish on an otherwise outstanding year for e-commerce was a holiday season that fell shy of initial expectations, apparently due to consumers’ fiscal cliff concerns. To the extent that this pullback was just a temporary shock and not a sign of underlying economic weakness, we are optimistic that 2013 will build on the momentum of the past year.”

It looks like digital content is driving the surge in online spending. Once again, digital content and subscriptions were the top performing product category in e-commerce, followed by consumer electronics, toys and hobbies, apparel and accessories, and books and magazines.

If that wasn’t enough good news for one day, two of my favorite sites— and ModCloth—released their first iPad apps today.

“In December 2012, 40% of all traffic came from mobile and tablet devices, an increase of more than 100% from the year prior,” said Ron Feldman, Quidsi’s director of mobile and tablet group, in a statement.

Mobile commerce accounted for 3% of all online sales last year, reaching $8 billion last year, according to Forrester. That translates to less than 1% of total retail sales in the U.S., but Forrester forecasts some huge growth for mobile commerce in the near future. Forrester estimates that mobile commerce will quadruple to $31 billion in revenues in the next five years. 


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