comScore: U.S. Online Holiday Shopping Already Up 14 Percent To $9.7 Billion

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It looks like will be a joyful holiday season for many online retailers this year. comScore is reporting that holiday retail e-commerce spending for the first 20 days of the November to December 2011 season is already up 14 percent from the same period last year. Wednesday, November 16 was the heaviest online spending day of the season to date at $688 million.

comScore is forecasting that total online retail spending for the holiday season will reach $37.6 billion, 15 percent increase from last year’s season. For background, the 2010 holiday shopping period saw a 12 percent increase from 2009.

In a recent survey conducted with consumers, holiday shoppers say that retailers’ promotional activity for the early part of the season has increased in relation to last year. Specifically, 33 percent of respondents indicated that they are seeing more discounts, sales and promotions vs. last year compared to just 7 percent who said there were fewer.

Unsurprisingly, one of the major incentives for online purchases is free shipping. When asked how important free shipping is for making an online purchase this holiday season, 76 percent of consumers said that it was important and 47 percent indicated they would abandon a purchase if they got to checkout and found that free shipping was not included. And 40 percent of retail e-commerce purchases in Q3 2011 included free shipping. This is expected to spike in Q4 of 2011.

comScore’s chairman Gian Fulgoni attributes the increase to more consumers looking online for better deals, and the shipping convenience considering the current economic conditions. He adds that there is a shift happening from offline retail to online retail channels for price comparisons and browsing. This could also contribute to more conversions on online retail sites.

And we know mobile shopping will be on the rise as well—we’ll start seeing mobile transaction numbers coming in from retailers and companies like eBay, PayPal following Thanksgiving.

We’ll get a clearer picture of just how strong this holiday shopping season will be, both for brick and mortar and online retailers, following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Stay tuned.