Attention Shoppers: Americans Spent $43.2 Billion Online in Q2

No wonder Amazon and eBay reported solid second quarters.

In the U.S., e-commerce sales reached $43.2 billion in the second quarter — up 15 percent compared to the year-ago period, according to comScore.

The quarter marked America’s seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, as consumers get even more comfortable spending online and having products show up on their front porches.

What’s more, Amazon grew twice as fast as the overall market. The big-box retailer of the Web said that in the second quarter, it grew 32 percent if you take away the impact of foreign exchange. Likewise, eBay’s sales rallied in the second quarter, increasing 23 percent.

In contrast, brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling. For example, Best Buy’s same-store sales were down 5.3 percent in the three-month period ended May 5.

The comparisons are not entirely fair, because both Amazon and eBay lump together U.S. and international sales, and Best Buy separately reported that online revenue was up 20 percent, but it provides some perspective on how fast the shift from offline to online is happening.

What’s more, while comScore provides one of the most comprehensive reports for gauging e-commerce spending, its numbers do not take into account shopping conducted over cellphones and tablets — and that’s becoming hard to ignore.

In the second quarter, CEO John Donahoe said, he saw “a staggering surge” in mobile commerce that did not exist just a few years ago. Now eBay is expecting both its marketplaces division and PayPal to transact $10 billion in mobile volume this year, or more than double 2011.

Amazon does not break out mobile sales, but other, smaller, sites are also reporting significant mobile traffic. For example, One Kings Lane, an online home decor site, said mobile is making up 22 percent of the company’s sales.

Two other findings from the Q2 comScore report:

  • The top-performing online product categories were: Digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics, flowers, greetings and gifts, computer hardware, and apparel and accessories. Each category grew at least 16 percent compared to the year-ago period.
  • 42 percent of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, representing a seasonal pullback from a fourth-quarter high of 52 percent.

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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