The 5 Biggest Ecommerce Headlines of 2011

2011 was one heck of a year for the ecommerce industry. Check out today’s post to see which stories really turned heads this year.
Before we pop the bubbly and mumble through the mysterious words of Auld Lang Syne, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2011, the craziest year that ecommerce has ever seen. From looming government regulations to the maturation of social commerce, online business owners had reason to stay on their toes all year long.

Enjoy this year’s top five countdown of ecommerce stories:

#5: Internet Sales Tax Debate Intensifies throughout Congress, State Governments

Ecommerce Sales Tax

Leave it to the deficit to rain on the ecommerce parade. As Federal and state governments scramble to address their growing debt problems, several leaders grabbed onto the idea of implementing an internet sales tax. What began as a quiet Congressional bill, The Main Street Fairness Act morphed into something with a lot more traction, the Marketplace Equity Act of 2011, which is currently being debated in committee.

The snowball really started rolling when states aggressively took matters into their own hands. For example, Texas sent Amazon a $269 million bill for uncollected taxes, while California, New York and North Carolina signed a law that shifts the tax collection burden to online sellers. On the flip side, you know things are getting serious when behemoth players like Amazon and eBay have taken the fight to Washington.

Stay tuned. Expect this developing story to pick up a lot more steam in 2012.

#4: Social Commerce Matures, but Not How We Hoped

Social Commerce 20112011 was supposed to be a banner year for social commerce, as ecommerce merchants found new technologies to sell through social media channels. As we salivated over the potential impact of social commerce, we wiped our mouths dry after seeing that only about 1% of internet sales came from social channels.

Even though the power of social commerce hasn’t heavily impacted direct purchases, it does have a major influence on your customers’ purchasing process. Consider the following:

  • 77% of online shoppers use reviews to make a purchase decision, many of which stem from social channels like blogs, Facebook, etc.
  • 77% of users like getting exclusive offers that they can redeem via Facebook
  • Almost 50% of shoppers have made a purchase based on a recommendation through a social media network

What does this mean? In a nutshell, social commerce didn’t affect our bottom line as much as we hoped, but it drastically shaped how customers interact and buy from us.

#3: Ecommerce Experiences Wicked Growth All Year Long

Ecommerce Growth 2011

While we saw residual fears of the Great Recession continuing to plague many industries, ecommerce really hit its stride this year, experiencing huge growth from January to December.

Based on Q4 projections, 2011 online sales will hit $192.8 billion (yes, billion) this year, outpacing 2010 results by over 17%. For some context, retail sales are only expected to increase by 8%.

While holiday growth was expected, sales increases during the first three quarters was much higher than initial projections. Most surprising was the typically slower Q1, which saw over 19% growth from 2010. At the same time, we began to see ecommerce sales take a steeper percentage of overall retail sales.

Watch out, brick and mortars. Ecommerce is stealing your cake and eating it, too.

#2: Mobile Steals the Ecommerce Spotlight, Grows Like Wildfire

Mobile Commerce 2011

I have to admit, I was skeptical about mobile this year, completely leaving it off my predictions for 2011. But as smartphones and tablet devices were wildly adopted by consumers, it was inevitable for mobile commerce to take its place as a legitimate driver for online businesses.

Check this out from Tech Crunch and Digby:

  • Mobile sales on Christmas Day 2011 increased by 173% compared to the same day last year
  • 41% of smartphone owners have made a purchase from their mobile phone
  • 74 million consumers in the US already shop from their mobile devices
  • Smartphones and tablets will increase mobile Web traffic by 26 times in the next four years

Clearly, mobile made a huge splash in 2011. (Expect this to be just a drop in the bucket in 2012.)

#1: Ecommerce Dominates the Holidays, Shatters Sales Records

Holiday Ecommerce Sales 2011

Since we’re all in business to make money, it’s no surprise that epic revenue growth made front page ecommerce headlines again this year.

Hands down, the biggest story of 2011 is the unprecedented surge in ecommerce holiday sales. Last year we jumped for joy when Cyber Monday sales topped $1 billion. This year, Cyber Monday sales hit $1.25 billion, making it the largest of ten days with over a billion dollars in sales.

Online revenues during this year’s holiday season hit $35.3 billion, a whopping increase of 15.4% over 2010. While we expected sizeable holiday growth, no one saw this big of a season coming.

Final comScore results show that Black Friday sales experienced a 26% growth spurt from last year, reaching $816 million. What was particularly interesting, however, was the major uptick in “less notable” selling days, such as Green Monday (Dec. 12) and Free Shipping Day (Dec. 16), both of which saw double digit growth, raking in over one billion dollars each.

When the clock strikes midnight, don’t forget to raise a glass for this banner year of ecommerce.

And as more shoppers come online and technologies continue to grow, expect for 2012 to be full of even bigger stories to keep us entertained..

Happy selling!
-Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion

What do you think of this selection of stories? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

One Response to “The 5 Biggest Ecommerce Headlines of 2011”

  1. rick fonseca

    The selection of stories are great. All of us who have joined in ecomerce and pioneers are trying to keep up to date on all new technology that we can utilize in our business. Keeping abreast will provide us the edge that we need to succeed in this competetive industry of retail.

    Keep up the good work Matt


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