Online Commerce Trend: More Spending, Smaller Purchases

The average checkout size is shrinking, even though more people spent more money online this holiday season.

In November and December, the number of online transactions increased by 37 percent, and overall sales jumped by 25 percent. But the average ticket size declined by 9 percent, according to Chase Paymentech, which analyzes information across the top 50 e-commerce retailers.

As it turns out, more consumers are turning to e-commerce for more of their everyday spending, rather than reserving online purchases for big-ticket items.

Here are Chase’s three reasons for the decline:

  • More consumers are purchasing digital media, which has a lower price point than most physical goods — MP3s cost less than CDs, e-books cost less than paperbacks, and apps cost less than game cartridges.
  • Prices for popular electronics, such as tablets, e-readers and TVs, are falling.
  • More retailers are offering free shipping, which eliminates the incentive to fill carts to reach a free-shipping threshold.

EBay, which is the first major e-commerce provider to report Q4 results, confirmed it was also seeing the trend. The company’s payments division, PayPal, reported smaller transactions during the fourth quarter across the merchants it serves.

John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, explained in an interview that the biggest driver of that trend was eBay’s acquisition of Zong, a mobile payments provider that powers the sale of digital goods. In addition, Donahoe said retailers, including eBay, heavily discounted products in order to drive more purchases this holiday.

Amazon, which is the leading e-commerce provider, also said that it is selling a lot of low-priced digital goods, ranging from e-books to MP3s.

Historically, the company has said that Christmas is the largest day of digital sales on, followed by Dec. 26. In 2010, from Christmas Eve through Dec. 30, Amazon customers purchased three times more digital content — including Kindle books, magazines, movies, TV shows, music and digital games — compared to the weekly average for the year.

Despite transactions declining overall, Chase identified two exceptions: Apparel and footwear rose 6 percent; toys rose 10 percent year over year.

(Amazon photo courtesy of thisisbossi)

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