Forecast: Holiday e-commerce spending set to grow 15 percent

Based on the first three weeks of November, comScore is forecasting 15 percent growth in e-commerce spending for the 2011 holiday season.

U.S. consumers have so far spent $9.7 billion online during the first 20 days of the November-December holiday season, which is up 14 percent compared to the corresponding days last year. The heaviest online spending day of the season to date came on Nov. 16, when sales hit $688 million.

Last year, U.S. consumers spent a total of $32.6 billion online during the holiday season (excluding auction sites and travel spending). This year’s online holiday spending is expected to top $37.6 billion for a 15% gain, according to comScore’s estimates.

“With the persistent backdrop of macroeconomic uncertainty and continued high unemployment, consumers appear to be increasingly favoring the online benefits of convenience and lower prices,” said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni, in a statement. “Due to the strength leading up to and during the holiday season-to-date, comScore’s statistical models are forecasting that U.S. retail e-commerce spending will grow at a rate of 15 percent vs. last year.”

Free shipping is a big draw for online shoppers, comScore finds. When asked about the importance of free shipping, 30 percent of consumers surveyed said they won’t make a purchase without free shipping and another 46 percent said they actively seek out free shipping deals.

Meanwhile, more companies are taking steps to restrict online shopping while at work.

Among 1,400 CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology, 60% said their companies block access to online shopping sites, up from 48 percent last year. Of the remaining CIOs who don’t block access, 23 percent said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use, and 13 percent allow unrestricted access (4 percent don’t know).

The CIOs whose firms allow online shopping said they expect employees to spend four hours per week, on average, surfing for deals this holiday season.

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