Amazon Grew Twice as Fast as the Overall E-Commerce Market in Q4

Amazon’s growth of 35 percent in the fourth quarter ended up clocking in at more than twice the overall market’s growth, according to comScore, which released new data yesterday.

In the fourth quarter, comScore said, U.S. retail spending was up 14 percent — to nearly $50 billion — compared to a year ago.

Of course, Amazon’s results include international sales, as well as purchases made from mobile phones, which comScore does not track, so the comparison isn’t exactly fair.

Still, despite Amazon’s exuberant performance compared to the market as a whole, it fell short of Wall Street estimates, which had expected sales to rise by more than 40 percent from the fourth quarter in 2010.

Last week, the earnings news led to Amazon’s stock tumbling in after-hours trading by nearly 10 percent, to $175.50. Since then, the stock has partially recovered, and is currently trading at $184.74 a share.

More findings from comScore’s fourth-quarter and year-end reports:

  • The fourth quarter represented the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth, and fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.
  • For the entire year 2011, U.S. retail e-commerce spending reached a record $161.5 billion, marking a 13 percent increase from 2010.
  • The categories that grew by at least 18 percent year over year: Digital content and subscriptions, jewelry and watches, consumer electronics, toys and hobbies, and computer software.
  • 10 days in Q4 surpassed $1 billion in online spending.
  • 52 percent of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, representing an all-time high.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work