US E-Commerce Holiday Spend Will Reach $70B, Mobile Booms As Online Growth Slows To 9%

Ahead of the holiday sales season kicking off tomorrow online, comScore has published its annual e-commerce forecasts for the period between now and New Years. The researchers predict that collectively, U.S. consumers will spend $70 billion on sites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Apple and many others this season. While that number is up by 14% over the $61 billion spent in 2014, overall we also seeing a “marginal” slowdown, says comScore. Transactions over mobile devices are gaining in popularity, but they are not (yet) offsetting the lack of growth in desktop commerce.

Amazon will lead the charge as the most-used retailer, accounting for 20% of all e-commerce sales, says comScore. eBay will follow up with 10% with Walmart — the biggest brick and mortar retailer — at 4% of e-commerce sales.

E-commerce will account for about 15% of all discretionary spending in the period and will continue to be a more dynamic area than physical sales, says comScore.

“The 2015 online holiday shopping season is expected to surpass $70 billion in spending, representing a year-over-year growth rate of 14 percent across desktop, smartphones and tablets, and once again far outpacing the growth of brick-and-mortar retail during the most important stretch of the year for retailers,” said Gian Fulgoni, Executive Chairman Emeritus of comScore, in a statement. “Although we anticipate a marginal slowdown in the digital commerce growth rate from last year’s 15-percent level, the overall economic outlook is positive, which bodes well for consumers and  retailers. Importantly, there’s one additional shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, which when coupled with low gas prices means that consumers will have more cash on hand to take advantage of the slightly longer holiday season.”

The comScore numbers are relatively conservative: Forrester Research’s holiday predictions, published earlier this month, noted that about $95 billion would be spent online in the holiday sales rush.

comScore says “Desktop” e-commerce — that is, transactions completed over a broadband connection using a laptop or fixed computer — will still represent the majority of all transactions in November and December, at $58 billion of all sales. But growth in desktop sales will slow down by quite a lot: that $58 billion is up by only 9% on 2014; a year ago, the desktop category expanded by 14%.

Here are this year’s forecasts:

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And for comparison, here are the numbers published by comScore last year:

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.33.59

As you can see, mobile commerce — transactions over smartphones or tablets — will continue to follow their booming trajectory. In real terms, mobile sales are still relatively small: they will come in at just under $12 billion ($11.8 billion). But just as in other categories like digital advertising, mobile continues to be the growth driver. Those figures are up 47% on 2014 — a clear acceleration, considering that in 2014, mobile commerce only grew 25% on the year before.

Last year we noticed that retailers were starting to open their physical stores on the evening of Thanksgiving to try to get in early on the holiday sales frenzy, with many online sales promotions following suit. This looks like it will be the norm from now on (to the consternation of those who want to resist the pull of consumerism).

“Last year, many retailers opened stores on Thanksgiving Day with unexpected results, as some consumers shifted their store visits from Black Friday to Thanksgiving Day but reduced their spending rate,” said Fulgoni. “The good news is that online buying more than compensated for the softness of in-store sales, with growth rates of more than 25 percent during those two days. We anticipate that happening again this year.”

And it won’t just end come Sunday. ComScore predicts that “Cyber Monday”, or the day after the Thanksgiving long weekend, will pass $3 billion in sales to be the heaviest day of all for online spending for the sixth year in a row. $500 million in sales will come from mobile devices. 

IBM, PayPal, Amazon and others will be publishing figures on sales as the long weekend and holiday sales rush unfold: we’ll be updating and writing as the numbers come in.