"I did not set foot into a store this holiday season and all Christmas shopping was done online, completely stress-free," wrote a reader in New York using the name Happy Online Shopper. "Great prices, great service, no dealing with obnoxious salespeople and aggressive crowds."
Apparently, more and more people feel the same way. ComScore has published its final online sales report for the holiday season, andshoppers spent $27 billion on the Web, an increase of 5 percent over last year.
These numbers do not necessarily signal a happy new year for online shops. The increase follows dismal sales last year, when shoppers were feeling the pinch of the recession and online sales fell for the first time, and is down from double-digit increases in previous years.
But the results are better than many analysts predicted, and prove that online stores continue to steal market share from bricks-and-mortar stores. Offline sales, though still much larger than online sales, increased only 3.6 percent, according to SpendingPulse, an information service of MasterCard Advisors. Meanwhile online sales accounted for about 10 percent of total retail this season, an all-time high, according to Forrester Research.
Though overall sales increased, individuals each spent a little less, comScore said. The successful ones marketed over social media, like sending discounts to their Facebook fans or Twitter followers, and offered free shipping later in the season.
Sites selling consumer electronics, jewelry and watches had significant improvement in sales this season. Big sites like Amazon.com performed better than smaller online shops.
"In these tough economic times, the retailers with sufficient financial resources and a willingness to invest in aggressive marketing and free-shipping offers were clear winners," said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore.