Online shopping up 24 percent this holiday season

Holiday online shopping is up 24 percent over last year, while some categories are outpacing the market, including sports and fitness.

Online shoppers have spent 24 percent more this holiday season than last year because they are generally more experienced and comfortable purchasing from e-tailers, comScore Networks said Sunday.

Nontravel online consumer spending reached US$9.75 billion between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2, as online shoppers bought a wider variety of products and also showed more willingness to spend on pricier items than during the same period last year, according to the Reston, Virginia market research firm.

Some categories are outpacing the overall market, such as sport and fitness, where spending is up 59 percent; furniture, appliances and equipment (up 50 percent); and apparel and accessories (up 37 percent), according to comScore. Overall, spending growth should remain steady at 24 percent through the end of December, the firm said.

As the holiday season progresses, e-tailers should know that not all shoppers are created equal. Reporting results from a study conducted between June and August, NetRatings's Nielsen/NetRatings said on Friday that 18 percent of online shoppers generate 46 percent of total spending. Consequently, e-tailers need to identify these buyers, which Nielsen/NetRatings calls "most valuable purchasers" or MVPs, and come up with ways to attract, retain and reward them.

The typical MVP uses comparison shopping Web sites heavily, tends to have a higher income than less-active buyers and has a broadband connection to the Internet, the New York market research firm said. Across all online buyer segments, the preferred comparison shopping Web site is eBay's Shopping.com, followed by Yahoo's Yahoo Shopping, Shopzilla and Microsoft's MSN Shopping, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to attract more users, MSN Shopping has begun delivering eBay listings, according to the official MSN Shopping blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/msnshoppinginsider/default.aspx). "This addition enables our users to enjoy a significantly expanded selection including items that are up for sale via auctions," wrote Shailesh Prakash, MSN Shopping lead program manager, on Friday.

To enable MSN Shopping to carry eBay listings, Microsoft has expanded the site's software platform and boosted its server infrastructure, Prakash wrote. "Inventory on eBay is constantly changing and in order to bring our consumers the freshest catalog of choices possible, we parse, load, classify and match the tens of millions of eBay items on a daily basis," he wrote.

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