Early numbers suggest rosy outcome for 2011 holiday season

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While this week’s post-season sales are still ongoing and the final numbers won’t be tallied until after the New Year, initial reports from the final weeks of the 2011 holiday season indicate that merchants have every reason to be jubilant.

Online measurement firm comScore reported that from Nov. 1 to Dec. 18, online revenues industry-wide jumped 15% year over year, for a total of nearly $32 billion. Key shopping days saw even stronger gains, according to comScore — including Black Friday at 26% growth and “Green Monday”, the second Monday in December, at 19%.

Chart from comScore showing holiday season sales

Happily,  this growth isn’t being driven solely by a few top mega-merchants, such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Data from the MarketLive Performance Index shows that mid-market merchants are likewise thriving — and even outperforming the industry averages.

On Free Shipping Day, Dec. 16, Index merchants reported year-over-year revenue gains of 19%, a third higher than the 14% growth industry-wide reported by ComScore. Similarly, for the week ending Sunday, Dec. 18, Index merchants reported gains of 15% compared with the same week in 2010 — 7% above comScore’s result’s for the same period.

A deeper dive into the Index data reveals that merchants aren’t just seeing top-line growth; successful acquisition and conversion tactics are fueling solid performance gains. Both conversion rates and average order value for the holiday season rose by nearly 5%, while cart abandonment rates have held steady at below 55% — suggesting that merchants successfully connected shoppers with the right products and eased the path to purchase with customer service information and shipping offers to close the sale.

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