has released the results of the first complete review of consumer e-commerce for the first quarter of 2002, reporting that sales at U.S. Web sites set a new record of more than $17 billion for the quarter. This level represents an increase of 48% versus one year ago and 8% versus the fourth quarter of 2001.
Excluding Travel, online sales totaled $10.1 billion, reflecting 30 percent growth over the first quarter of 2001 and a decline of 7% versus the holiday-driven fourth quarter of 2001.
After more than three challenging months last fall and winter, the online travel sector enjoyed an almost immediate resurgence at the start of January 2002. Consumers spent nearly $7 billion at domestic Travel sites in Q1 2002, an impressive increase of 87% versus the same period in 2001 and 39% above Q4 2001. Travel accounted for 41% of total consumer e-commerce sales, a share exceeded only by the 43% level that the sector had achieved in Q3 2001.
“Throughout the holiday season, many consumers suspended their travel plans - and in turn saved their travel dollars,” explained comScore vice president Dan Hess. “Now that many of those same consumers are taking to the skies again, travel providers and service agencies are benefiting from those newly reopened wallets.”
Previous comScore analysis has found that many holidays are followed by a short-term online sales lift as postponed consumer demand is met. However, comScore reported that average daily Travel sales in each month of the post-holiday first quarter exceeded those of the prior month. “We saw a new average daily record set every month,” noted Hess.
comScore`s sales figures are based on the actual buying activity of a representative and massive cross-section of more than 1.5 million Internet-using individuals, who have given comScore permission to confidentially monitor their browsing and buying behavior using comScore`s patent-pending technology. The comScore data are available within 24 to 48 hours following the end of the time period being monitored.
comScore`s passive monitoring approach has been acknowledged by research experts to be significantly more precise than that used by other market research firms, which are inevitably based on self-reported behavior among surveyed consumers - sometimes only several hundred in number. This research approach is problematic, both because it requires consumers to remember the complete details of every purchase - which few people are able to do - and because the small measurement sample yields a very small number of purchases from which to develop projections.
“comScore has created a powerful database to measure purchasing behavior on the Internet. comScore`s large sample size and ability to monitor the behavior of that sample are unique,” stated Dr. Steven N. Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
“Because the data are collected automatically and passively, comScore`s database avoids the inaccuracies of self-reporting,” continued Professor Kaplan. “With its large sample size, comScore is in a superior position to address and avoid selection biases that render many surveys and panels unreliable. Finally, the granularity and flexibility of the comScore database have the potential to uncover purchasing behaviors and relationships that would not be discernible in smaller, less detailed samples.”