U.S. Online Shopping Falls Just Short of $50 Billion in Q4 2011, comScore Says

Online shopping continues to grow in popularity in the U.S. where retail e-commerce sales totaled a whopping $49.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, according to data from comScore. That's a 14 percent increase over the same quarter one year prior, and the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth. It was also the fifth consecutive quarter of double digit growth.

"The fourth quarter of 2011 capped off what was yet another strong year for online retail, one in which every quarter achieved double-digit increases versus the prior year," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs. Price and convenience continue to be the critical value drivers for e-commerce, and unless those conditions change we can expect to see more channel-shifting to online in 2012 and perhaps even an acceleration in the current growth trend."

Retail e-commerce reached a record $161.5 billion in the U.S. for all of 2011, a 13 percent jump from 2010. On ten separate days, online sales topped $1 billion last year, including $1.251 billion on Cyber Monday (November 28, 2011), the busiest online shopping day of the year. This was followed by December 5 with $1.178 billion in e-commerce sales, and Green Monday (December 12) at $1.133 billion.

Avoiding the hustle and bustle of brick-and-mortar crowds undoubtedly played a role, as well as all the free shipping deals. Over half -- 52 percent -- of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, an all-time high, according to comScore.