It’s the holidays and the online retail sales are… well… who knows? We’re seeing data points all over the map. comScore is reporting better-than-they-expected 4% growth over the the previous year.
U.S. online holiday spending has grown 4% to nearly $21 billion during the first 43 days of the November-December shopping season, according to comScore Inc. (SCOR). The Internet researcher, which had forecast a 3% increase from a year earlier, attributed the better-than-expected results partly to retailers’ heavy promotions. During the most recent week ended Dec. 13, spending reached a record $4.74 billion. The previous record was $4.7 billion during the week ended Dec. 16, 2007.
But in Chase Paymentech’s eCommerce holiday index, transactions and sales are both up — way up — from a year ago.
Even with the big online retail promotions from Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, e-commerce has continued to grow at a healthy pace vs. last year, and this past week maintained the trends seen in the first days after Thanksgiving. In the second full week of holiday shopping, transactions grew by over 25.3 percent, while sales were up 14.8 percent. Average value per ticket, meanwhile, was still down 5.9 percent, but that decline has narrowed from previous weeks.
Why the big difference? As is always the case, it’s all about context. comScore is judging online sales from the start of November, which is apparently the new definition of the holiday season. Chase Paymentech is more traditional, and only looking at holiday sales post Thanksgiving. Either way, it’s nice to see things going up instead of down.
There are big differences, also, in terms of methodology. comScore’s technique for assessing eCommerce sales is based on a panel survey of two million online consumers that asks what they bought. Maybe comScore blends this with some observed website traffic analysis. I’m not sure. It would be nice to better understand this.
Chase Paymentech, on the other hand, measures actual purchases processed from 50 of the top 250 Internet Retailer merchants. A little more definitive in my opinion. As the largest eCommerce processor in the United States, they have visibility into a significant percentage on online purchase and can base their index on transaction volume and purchase volume. For all I know, they might even include returns! Oh, maybe that index doesn’t start until after the holidays.
On a more serious note, the National Retail Federation anticipated consumer spending was going to be down this year, based on some early consumer surveys done in October. Given the eCommerce numbers being reported now, particularly from Paymentech, we’re wondering if this season might represent a significant inflection point in the shift towards online retail?