Free Shipping Is The Hook

According to comScore, holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 35 days of the November - December 2010 holiday season, more than $17.5 billion has been spent online, marking a 12-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. The most recent week saw four individual days eclipse $800 million in spending, led by Cyber Monday, which became the heaviest online spending day on record at $1.028 billion. Tuesday, November 30 was the third heaviest online spending day on record. Wednesday and Thursday also reached high levels, although growth rates for the season subsided in the latter half of the week and through the weekend.

2010 Holiday Season To Date vs. 2009 (Millions $; Non-Travel Retail; Total U.S. Home/Work/University Locations)




% Change vs. 2009

November 1 - December 5 *




Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25)




Black Friday (Nov. 26)




Cyber Monday (Nov. 29)




Week Ending Dec. 5 (Nov. 29 - Dec. 5)




Source: comScore, Inc, December 2010; *Corresponding days based on corresponding shopping days (November 2 thru December 4, 2009)

comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, said "Cyber Monday started the week off with a bang, but online spending growth softened during the latter part of the week and into the weekend... but we can expect to see activity begin to pick up again... as we get into the middle part of December when online buying typically peaks."

Over the years, one of the most prevalent promotions used by retailers during the holiday season to drive e-commerce purchasing has been free shipping, says the report. An analysis of the share of e-commerce transactions that included free shipping suggests that the promotion has accelerated in importance once again in 2010 with each of the most recent three weeks seeing more than 50% of all transactions include this incentive.

The week ending Sunday, November 28th showed a peak free shipping rate of 55.1%, 9.6 percentage points higher than the corresponding week in 2009. The week ending December 5th also showed a significant increase versus last year, growing 7.6 percentage points.

Weekly Holiday Free Shipping Analysis (Non-Travel Retail Spending Total U.S. Home/Work/University Locations)

Week Ending

Percent of Transactions with Free Shipping




Point Change





















Source: comScore, Inc., December 2010; *Weeks based on corresponding shopping days for 2009

"... free shipping has become a critical driver of e-commerce purchasing... the majority of consumers (say) they will abandon their shopping carts if they get to check-out and find that free shipping is not included," added Mr. Fulgoni.

Amazon and Walmart are both offering free shipping on virtually all transactions this season, says the report. Transactions with free shipping run an average of 30% higher in basket value than those without, helping to offset some of the margin compression from such attractive incentives.

One other trend that comScore has tracked since the beginning of the recession, notes Marketing Charts, is the shift of online spending dollars toward larger retailers, who typically have greater financial resources to invest in offering the most competitive pricing on goods and services. Growth for the holiday season to date has come almost entirely from the Top 25 online retailers, who have seen their total dollar sales grow 20%, while overall growth among the small- and mid-sized retailers has been flat.

The top 25 retailers have gained more than 6% of market share to a level of almost 68%, compared to a level of about 64% during the 2009 holiday season.

For more from comScore, please visit here.

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