By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO Nov 20 E-commerce is expected to
grow strongly this holiday season, spurred by early online
deals, the rise of mobile devices and more offers of free
ComScore Inc expects online sales to grow 15
percent to 18 percent in the United States this holiday season.
Last year, holiday e-commerce spending rose 15 percent to a
record $37.2 billion, according to the firm.
Doug Anmuth, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, expects online
purchases in the fourth quarter to top 10 percent of total U.S.
retail spending for the first time.
"It's still early, but our sense is that we will have a
really positive holiday season," said Joel Anderson, head of
Walmart.com, the online business of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Wal-Mart expects 600 million online visitors during its
holiday quarter, which runs from November through January. That
is up 13 percent from the same period last year, according to
"We're still on forecasts and off to a good start," he
The holiday season is crucial for retailers because that is
when they generate the most revenue and a big chunk of their
Thanksgiving and the days following, which include what is
traditionally the busiest online shopping day, Cyber Monday, are
more important this year as retailers lure consumers with
"This trend could drive a disproportionately higher percent
of overall holiday spending to the first half of the period,"
said Brian Pitz and Brian Fitzgerald, Internet analysts at
Jefferies. "Heavy promotions would be needed later on to achieve
the growth rates of last year."
Cyber Monday online spending is forecast to jump 30 percent
this year, versus growth of 22 percent last year, according to
comScore data compiled by Jefferies. Last year, Cyber Monday was
the busiest online shopping day, with $1.25 billion in sales,
according to the data.
Starting on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart will send early online
deals to customers who connect with the retailer via email,
Facebook Inc or by downloading its mobile shopping
application to their smartphones.
Fab.com, an online design website, said sales more than
tripled in the first half of November from the same period a
"Last year we didn't see that spike until Black Friday,"
said Fab Chief Executive Jason Goldberg. "This holiday season
started much earlier."
The spread of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet
computers, will also drive online sales growth this holiday,
J.P. Morgan's Anmuth estimates that mobile shopping will
account for 12 percent of holiday e-commerce spending in the
United States in the fourth quarter, up from 3 percent in the
same period of 2010 and 9 percent last holiday season.
Some mobile shopping represents a shift from personal
computers to smartphones and tablets, rather than extra
spending. However, Anmuth said the rise of mobile devices is
fueling a faster switch to online commerce from physical retail.
Free shipping will also be a major driver of online sales
growth this holiday, according to Anmuth and others.
More than half of consumers will abandon online shopping
carts if they have to pay for shipping, recent data from
Retailers have responded by offering more free shipping for
online purchases. Between 50 percent and 60 percent of online
transactions this holiday will come with free shipping,
according to Shawn Milne, an analyst at Janney Capital Markets.