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E-Commerce, Especially M-Commerce, Left a Big Mark on 2015’s Holiday Season
January 8, 2016

By Jim Daly

Two reports released Friday afternoon about consumer spending in the 2015 holiday season document continued strong growth in online commerce, although one report has e-commerce falling slightly short of earlier predictions. And mobile commerce is the new star of consumer payments.

In its final report about the 2015 holidays, Internet metrics tracker comScore Inc. says digital commerce—spending from desktop computers and mobile devices—grew 13% to $69.1 billion from $61.3 billion a year earlier, according to the firm’s preliminary estimates. Desktop e-commerce increased 6% to $56.4 billion from $53.3 billion.

Not unexpectedly given the growth of smart phones and tablet computers and better shopping options for small screens, mobile commerce grew much faster than desktop spending. M-commerce sales totaled $12.7 billion, up 59% from $7.98 billion in 2014’s holiday season, according to Reston, Va.-based comScore’s preliminary figures.

Like desktop commerce, most mobile purchases are charged to credit or debit cards or to bank accounts via the automated clearing house network.

ComScore, whose figures exclude online auctions and large corporate purchases, had predicted a 14% overall increase in digital commerce for the 2015 holiday season, but the firm says sales softened in the last two weeks of the year. But m-commerce’s growth blew well past comScore’s earlier prediction of 47%.

“If there is an underlying takeaway from this holiday season, I think it will be remembered as the one where ‘mobile ate brick-and-mortar,’” said comScore chairman emeritus Gian Fulgoni in a statement. “I believe that we’ve seen a paradigm shift in 2016 where the future of retail will increasingly be defined by consumers’ behavior on mobile.”

E-commerce accounted for 7.4% of all retail sales in the third quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While brick-and-mortar retailing remains much bigger than online commerce, it’s growing much slower. Leading payment card processor First Data Corp. issued a report Friday from its SpendTrend monitoring service that says total retail sales increased 3.3% this holiday season, slightly more than the 3.2% increase in 2014.

Atlanta-based First Data attributed the small growth to a 0.2% decline in the average ticket, to $74.68, over most of the season, offsetting an increase in transactions. But the average online ticket was far higher than the typical in-store sale—$125.72 versus $69.64.

Online commerce accounted for 20.2% of holiday sales, up from 18% in 2014, the processor said.

First Data gleaned its figures from offline and online card transactions between Oct. 31 and Jan. 4 at 1.3 million U.S. merchant locations it has served for at least 13 months.

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