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There’s always next year for online opportunity


The difficulties Target experienced with the relaunch of its website early last fall and subsequent fall off in traffic couldn’t have come at a worse time, as total retail online sales hit new highs during the holiday season.

Online sales increased 15% to $35.3 billion From Nov. 1 through Dec. 25 compared with the same time period the prior year, according to the online measurement firm comScore.

“Holiday e-commerce spending has remained strong throughout the season, and we have now reached a record $35 billion in U.S. online sales for the season-to-date,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “We can now say with certainty that the $1.25 billion spent on Cyber Monday will rank it as the heaviest online spending day of the season for the second consecutive year, but we should also note that it was accompanied by nine other billion dollar spending days this year.”

Target may have missed out on its fair share of the bonanza, if online traffic trends from November are any indication. Traffic during the month of 40.2 million unique visitors was essentially flat with the prior year when logged 39.8 million unique visitors, according to comScore. That’s still a lot of visitors and was the second most heavily trafficked conventional retail website after Walmart, but for comparison purposes’s traffic in November surged to 58.5 million unique visitors compared with the prior November’s 51.8 million unique visitors.

How fared in December likely won’t be known until mid-January when comScore typically releases its top 50 report, but already some interesting trends have emerged from the holiday season that are sure to impact strategies in holiday 2012. For starters, look for even more Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday promotions as traffic on both days continues to experience dramatic growth. Another interesting e-commerce phenomena occurring over the past several years is the dramatic increase in Christmas Day purchases of digital content and subscriptions, a retail category that includes digital downloads of music, TV, movies, e-books and apps, according to comScore. Not surprisingly, as many consumers receive new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and digital content gift certificates for Christmas, they spend Christmas Day loading up their devices with new content.

On an average day during the 2011 holiday season-to-date (Nov. 1 – Dec. 26), digital content and ubscriptions accounted for 2.8% of retail e-commerce sales, but on Christmas Day the category accounted for more than 20% of sales. Consistent with past years, comScore expected sales for this category of products to remain elevated throughout the entire week following Christmas Day.

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