As widely predicted, the 2003 holiday season proved to be an online jackpot with America's shoppers spending as never before online,

According to the eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive, and Nielsen//NetRatings, $18.5 billion (€14.55bn; £10.05bn) changed hands in November and December 2003 -- a year-on-year increase of 35%.

Said N//NR senior analyst Abha Bhagat: "'Online retailers have enjoyed a fantastic season in 2003. This is the third straight season of record growth, which indicates retailers are doing a much better job of appealing to customers through online channels as well as successfully integrating various channels to reach out to them."

The biggest revenue generators over the Thanksgiving-Christmas period were apparel ($3.8bn), toys/video games including software ($2.2bn), video/DVD ($1.6bn), consumer electronics, and computer hardware and peripherals.

Not only did ravening consumers spend more, they declared themselves better satisfied with the online shopping experience than in previous years. Sixty-three percent of all e-shoppers were satisfied with their overall experience, a five-point increase from 2002. And just seven percent were dissatisfied, a one-point decrease.

Only 3.6% of customers reported serious problems with the online purchasing experience. Two thirds complained that their order was not received when promised, one third that an incorrect or defective product was received.

Comments Lori Iventosch-James, Harris Interactive's director of ecommerce research: "'During the 2003 holiday season, online retailers have gone the extra mile to meet customer expectations. That's reflected in the higher level of satisfaction, the relatively small number of serious problems reported and the increase in online spending as a percentage of total holiday spending."

The eSpending Report is based on a weekly national survey of between 800 and 1,700 online shoppers randomly chosen from Harris Interactive's online panel. The holiday season summary data is based on over 9,500 responses in November and December 2003.

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff