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Free Shipping Day Drives Holiday E-tail Sales to $30.9B


US retail e-commerce spending for the first 46 days of the November-December 2011 holiday season reached $30.9 billion, up 15% from the corresponding days in 2010, according to data from comScore.

Online retail sales surpassed $1 billion on four out of the five days of the previous business week ( Dec 12-16), led by Green Monday (Dec 12) with $1.13 billion and Free Shipping Day (Friday, Dec 16) with $1.07 billion.

"More than $1 billion in spending on Free Shipping Day put the exclamation point on what will almost certainly be the heaviest week of the online holiday shopping season," said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman.

"While next week may see another strong day or two at the beginning of the week, it’s clear that we have now reached the crescendo for this season and that spending will begin to slow as we get closer to Christmas, leaving Cyber Monday as the top ranked shopping day for the second year in a row."

Free Shipping Rates Rebound in Final Online Sales Push

Following a decline in the second week of December, free shipping offers rebounded. For the five-day week ended Dec 16 (Free Shipping Day), the percentage of transactions with free shipping reached 56%, nearly 4 percentage points higher than the corresponding period a year earlier.

"Free shipping is undoubtedly one of the most important incentives for consumers and has become a key driver of online buying activity over the past few years," added Mr. Fulgoni.

"This season has seen a continuation of the trend where an increasing percentage of transactions involve free shipping, as more consumers demand it and more retailers provide it. During the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Week we saw at least 3 in 5 transactions use free shipping, significantly higher rates than we've ever previously observed."

Promos Offered Early Generated Most Growth 

Holiday deals such free shipping and discounts generated higher growth when offered early in the season. 

An analysis of the year-over-year growth for Mondays and Fridays, the two key promotional days during the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and Free Shipping Day recorded higher growth rates during the days nearer to Thanksgiving, with growth rates in the mid-20s, compared with those in the mid-teens during the middle part of December:

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