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Online retail sales up 6% in March


Armonk, N.Y. -- A report released Tuesday by IBM found that the U.S. online retail sector grew more than 6% in March 2012. This upswing in March closes a quarter in which online sales were down slightly from the same period in 2011.

IBM’s online economic indicator identified several trends of importance to chief marketing officers, e-commerce leaders and customer service professionals. The most notable development over this first quarter period was the continued growth of mobile commerce which resumed the momentum established in December by accounting for 13.3% of online retail sales, double the number seen in first quarter 2011.

In addition to sales, the economic indicator identified growth in positive consumer sentiment around key attributes of a successful buying experience. Specifically focused on department stores, the indicator found consumers are increasingly optimistic when it comes to convenience, experience and overall value, each up from this same period last year. Businesses are increasingly looking to analyze social media to assess the way their customers view them.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Online retail sales for first quarter were down 1.9% year-over-year, but grew by 6.3% from February to March 2012;

  • Mobile devices comprised 17.1% of all online sessions, exceeding the 6.1% witnessed over this same period in 2011;

  • Sales from mobile devices reached 13.3%, up from the 7% in first quarter 2011;

  • Apple’s iPhone continued to rank one for mobile device retail traffic at 6.5% with Android taking second at 5.9%. iPad came in third at 5.3%;

  • Shoppers referred from Social Networks generated 1.1% of all online traffic over first quarter 2012, matching 2011; and

  • Shoppers referred to retailer sites from Social Networks generated 2.4% of all online sales over first quarter 2012, an increase from the 1.7% seen over this period last year.

For online retail categories year-over-year:

  • Apparel stores maintained strong December momentum with first quarter sales growing 14.9%;

  • Department stores continued to catch the attention of consumers with sales growing 20.4%;

  • Health & Beauty sales grew by 28.8%;

  • Home goods experienced a 29.3% increase in sales in the first quarter with consumers continuing to shop for their homes;

  • Jewelry stores continued recent momentum with sales growing by 11.3%;

  • Office Supply/Electronics experienced growth in the first quarter with online sales increasing by 6.6%.

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