Researcher projects 11% hike in online holiday spending

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday loom, more shoppers expected to head online, ComScore says

Thinking of doing a little more of your holiday shopping online this year?

If so, you're not alone. A study released this week by online researcher ComScore projects that online holiday spending in the U.S. will increase by 11% this year.

"The beginning of the online holiday shopping season has gotten off to an extremely positive start, outperforming our earlier expectations," said ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni in a statement. "Despite continued high unemployment rates and other economic concerns, consumers seem to be more willing to open up their wallets this holiday season than last.

"While this early spending surge reflects, in part, heavy promotional activity on the part of retailers occurring earlier this season, it is nevertheless a very encouraging sign," he added.

According to ComScore, Americans have already spent more than $9 billion on holiday-related e-commerce purchases this month. That's an uptick of 13% compared to the same part of November, 2009.

For the entire holiday shopping season, ComScore analysts are predicting online spending to hit $32.4 billion, up 11% over 2009 spending.

If ComScore's projections prove accurate, this year's online retail active will mark a significant improvement over 2009's e-commerce numbers, when online sales increased by 4% over 2008.

"After a year in which we already saw growth rates return to solid positive territory, the recent strength in holiday spending has led us to raise our official [growth] forecast to 11% from the 7% to 9% we were initially expecting," said Fulgoni. "We are seeing online spending surpass the totals we saw in 2007 prior to the recession and expect sales this holiday season to be the highest on record, with more than $32 billion being spent during the November and December period."

The perks that some e-retailers are offering may be tempting people to do more shopping online this year.

In a ComScore survey of online shoppers conducted this month, 36% of the respondents reported that they're noticing more discounts, sales and promotions at e-commerce sites. Free shipping is one of the more frequently used promotions this year, ComScore said.

And that's a good thing, since 33% of those surveyed said that they wouldn't buy something online without free shipping and 44% said that they actively look for sites that offer free shipping.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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