Reston, Va. -- Online retail spending reached $49.7 billion for the fourth quarter, up 14% over a year ago, according to comScore. It was the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates. For the entire 2011 year, U.S. retail e-commerce spending reached a record $161.5 billion, marking a 13% increase from 2010.
“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. "In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs. 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."
The top-performing online product categories in the fourth quarter were: digital content and subscriptions, jewelry and qatches, consumer electronics, toys and hobbies, and computer software. Each category grew at least 18% vs. year ago.
Other highlights of the quarter included:
*Fifty-two percent of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, representing an all-time high. The previous high was Q4 2010 at 49%.
•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.