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E-Commerce Sales Rose For Holiday Season but Fell Short of Predictions

Despite the disappointing predictions for overall holiday sales that blamed low consumer confidence, a short holiday season and a still-struggling U.S. economy, the holiday season shaped up for U.S. e-commerce retailers but still did not quite live up to expectations.

Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research firm based in Cambridge, MA, had forecast an almost 15 percent increase in online sales in 2013 over the previous but a late December report from Internet technology analyst comScore showed retail e-commerce sales done on desktops up just 10 percent over 2012. Sales from mobile devices like tablets and smartphones could contribute to a higher overall percentage growth in e-commerce as research results continue to come in.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman said, “Our expectations for the online holiday shopping season anticipated that consumers would spend heavily later into the season out of necessity to make up for the highly compressed holiday shopping calendar this year,” adding that, “Unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the final online shopping week saw considerably softer sales than anticipated, including zero billion dollar spending days — although Monday and Tuesday came close.”

EMarketer, a digital marketing and media research firm that tracks online sales, predicted that e-commerce sales of apparel and accessories would hit $54.2 billion this year but for the first fifty-two of the November-December holiday season, comScore reported e-commerce sales of $42.8 billion.

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Among the inducements to shop online were promotions, discounted prices and free shipping.  Also mentioned in many major ad campaigns directed at both online shopping regulars and new customers was the absence of crowds and the unparalleled convenience.

Two additional means of e-shopping have also emerged in recent years — the smart phone and the tablet — which together now account for about 11% of all electronic commerce.

EMarketer predicts that mobile and tablet shopping will climb to about 25% of retail sales by 2017.

Referring to the ever-expanding legion of online shoppers, Roberge said of 2013, “This is the third consecutive year that we’re expecting double-digit growth, which is just proving that the web channel is where people are going to do their holiday shopping.”

While the season did see double digit growth despite falling short of predictions, Fulgoni from comScore said,  “I think we’ll look back at this online holiday season as one where absolute dollar sales gains in consumer spending were held back by heavy retailer price discounting that occurred in an attempt to stimulate consumer demand, while at the same time, consumers weren’t willing or able to increase their spending rate to fully compensate for the six-day shorter shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”