For the entire fourth quarter, online retail spending reached $49.7 billion -- up 14% year-over-year, according to new data from comScore. That growth rate represented the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth, not to mention the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.
“The fourth quarter of 2011 capped off what was yet another strong year for online retail, one in which every quarter achieved double-digit increases versus the prior year,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
For the entire 2011 year, U.S. retail e-commerce spending reached a record $161.5 billion -- marking a 13% increase from 2010.
“In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs,” Fulgoni said.
The top-performing online product categories -- each of which grew at least 18% year-over-year -- included digital content & subscriptions; jewelry & watches; consumer electronics; toys & hobbies, and computer software.
Added Fulgoni: “Price and convenience continue to be the critical value drivers for e-commerce, and unless those conditions change, we can expect to see more channel-shifting to online in 2012 and perhaps even an acceleration in the current growth trend.”
During the fourth quarter, 10 individual days surpassed $1 billion in online spending, led by Cyber Monday -- Nov. 28 -- at $1.251 billion. Monday, Dec. 5 ranked second at $1.178 billion, followed by Green Monday -- Dec. 12 -- at $1.133 billion.
Also of note, 52% of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, representing an all-time high. The previous high of 49% was set during the fourth quarter of 2010. Smartphones and tablets played a growing role in online shopping, with consumes increasingly using smartphones to check prices and product features while physically in a retail store.