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Social media, m-commerce key to Holiday '13

Reston, Va. - While online retail rose 13% year over year in the third quarter, growing more rapidly than the overall retail sector, mobile commerce is expanding at twice that rate, translating into some major shifts in consumer spending habits this holiday season.

This is according to digital measurement and analytics provider comScore Inc., which shared this and other insights earlier this week during its U.S. Online Retail Economy Q3 2013 webinar.

Panelist Andrew Lipsman, vp of marketing & insights for comScore, explained: "The key themes emerging [in holiday 2013] are what I call the 4 S's - social commerce, smartphones, sit-back shopping, and showrooming."

He added that Pinterest is "gaining influence as social commerce channel and usage is rapidly shifting to mobile." Twitter, too, is "important" but Facebook, Lipsman noted, "has the largest position in terms of building brands."

The three key advantages social commerce offers retailers are: fan reach, engagement, and amplification.

Walmart, for example, "has an incredible amount of activity on Facebook" dominating the retail landscape over its competitors with the highest level of fans - almost 34 million, Lipsman said. By comparison, Target has about 22 million and Amazon has 20 million.

That can be attributed at least in part to Walmart's monthly posting activity, which at 241 items is "well above others" compared to Target's 66 and Amazon's 54 posts.

In terms of discretionary spending, growth in m-commerce - as mobile commerce is referred to commonly - is significantly outpacing that of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers.

The number of smartphone users now stands at about 140 million, and the majority of consumers - 54% of the total population - are multi-platform users, findings that should urge retailers to "think about marketing in that context' Lipsman said.

Furthermore, about one third of the average leading retailer's monthly traffic is now exclusively mobile; only a select few attract users primary via app.

Desktop ecommerce remains an important component of consumers' shopping habits, having accounted for 9.4% of their discretionary spending - "the highest third quarter share on record," comScore noted.

"That is a very high pattern of growth, especially over the past two years," said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman, "and there is no evidence that we should expect a slowdown in the continued growth of ecommerce going forward."

Hindering greater spending is consumers' perception of the U.S. economy currently. According to comScore, four in 10 consumers still rate the economy as "poor" - a level that has not improved in three quarters.

Rising prices remains the top concern for consumers, followed by unemployment/job security.

That said, some of the dynamics of sales patterns in the third quarter in ecommerce include:

  • An increase in e-commerce dollar sales due to growth in dollar sales and dollars per buyer;
  • A 13% increase in dollar sales to $47.3 billion compared to $41.9 billion in Q3 2012;
  • A 13% increase in dollars per buy to $245.30;
  • Buyers in millions are flat at 193;
  • Average order value up 3% to $92.50;
  • Transactions in million up 10% to 513;
    Transactions per buyer up 10% to 2.65.


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