US digital habits evolve

10 February 2011

NEW YORK: Group shopping, online video and the further rise of Facebook were among the key factors impacting the US digital sector last year, a study has argued.

Research firm comScore reported that ecommerce spending rose 9% in 2010 to $227.6bn (€166bn; £141bn), some $85.2bn of which was allocated to travel, and $142.5bn drawn from other retail segments, up 6% and 10% respectively.

Electronics witnessed a 19% lift in dollar returns, standing at 17% regarding computer hardware, 16% for books and magazines, 13% relating to flowers, gifts and cards, and 11% covering jewellery and watches.

The emergence of communal shopping sites is another central trend, with Groupon registering a 712% increase to 10.7m unique visitors across the year to December.

Living Social, a competing offering, also saw a 438% improvement, attracting 5.7m individuals during the closing month of last year.

"Flash sale" services have also assumed greater importance, as Gilt's user numbers climbed 52% to 863,000, while Hautelook grew 1% to 793,000 and surged 33%, to 658,000.

According to comScore, 90% of the web population now visit social networks, and the typical participant allots 4.5 hours to such platforms a month.

Facebook is accessed during 30% of online sessions, contributes 12.3% of the time American devote to the internet - jumping from 7.2% in 2009 - alongside supplying 10% of page views.

In all, Facebook boasts 153.9m US members, a 38% annual increase, prospering as MySpace's active audience contracted 27% to 50m, LinkedIn gained 30% to 26.6m, and Twitter's PC uptake leapt 18%, reaching 32.6m.

As a category, social networks take 14.4% of consumers' time surfing the net, accruing almost four percentage points year-on-year.

Google's sites held two-thirds of the search market, more than trebling the figures of alternative providers, and expanding by nearly seven points on 2009.

Facebook was the subject of 1.9bn organic search enquiries in 2010, while YouTube posted 791m requests, and Google itself lodged 616m entries.

Ebay secured the most paid clicks on 99.2m, easily surpassing Netflix's 43.1m, Yellow Pages' 36.2m, Verizon Wireless' 29.8m and Home Depot's 27.5m.

Overall, 4.9tr display ads were delivered last year, a 23% improvement, and a third of which came through social networks, led by Facebook, topping 1tr ads.

AT&T accounted for 94.1bn impressions, ahead of Verizon on 66.7bn, Scottrade's 59bn, Experian Interactive's 54bn and eBay's 36.8bn.

Elsewhere, 179m Americans now view internet video per month, averaging out at 88.6m a day in December, when consumers watched 201 pieces of content apiece and dedicated 14.2 hours each to this activity.

In the final quarter of 2010, Hulu streamed 323m hours of TV footage, with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW yielding 162m hours, although the latter group were up 82%, beating Hulu's 17%.

Ads comprise 16.4% of videos viewed, but only 1.6% of the time spent on this content type.

Turning to mobile, 47% of subscribers utilised web browsers and downloaded apps or content, encouraged by the fact smartphone ownership has grown from 17% to 27% year-on-year.

More specifically, 68% of people send text messages, 52.4% take photos, 39.5% read news and information, 36.4% use browsers and 34.4% leverage apps.

Accessing social networks logged 24.7%, entering search queries recorded 21.4%, and instant messaging generated 17.2%.

Data sourced from comScore; additional content by Warc staff