By Maria Valdez Haubrich
You know that ecommerce spending is growing—but did you know by just how much? In 2012, online shopping in the U.S. grew by 15 percent compared to 2011, reports comScore’s recently released full-year 2012 data. This was the strongest annual growth rate since back before the recession began. Overall, U.S. online shoppers spent $186.2 billion in 2012.
In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone (which includes the holiday shopping season), ecommerce sales grew by 14 percent year over year, reaching approximately $56.78 billion. ComScore had originally forecast a higher growth rate for 2012 ecommerce holiday sales, but last-minute consumer worries about the “fiscal cliff” appear to have had some effect on dampening online holiday sales just a bit.
Of course, the fourth-quarter sales are still nothing to complain about. Fourth-quarter 2012 was the first quarter ever that online sales hit $50 billion. It was also the thirteenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.
What kinds of products contributed the most to the growth in ecommerce sales? The strongest areas (those where online sales increased by at least 15 percent year over year) were digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics, toys and hobby-related items, apparel and accessories, and books and magazines. So while digital content still leads the way (not surprisingly), most major retail areas are well-represented.
Overall, the number of U.S. ecommerce buyers rose by 6 percent, showing that more consumers are more comfortable buying online. In addition, the average spending per buyer rose by 8 percent.
All told, U.S. online spending accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending last year (excluding spending on food, gas and automotive). That makes 2012 the first time that U.S. ecommerce spending has hit double digits.
While comScore hasn’t yet made a projection as to 2013 ecommerce spending, the report says that as long as the lower-than-expected fourth-quarter 2012 sales were just a temporary setback, rather than a foreshadowing of decreasing economic confidence among consumers, 2013 is highly likely to see strong growth as well.
Image by Flickr user SamahR (Creative Commons)