The third quarter of 2003 produced online retail sales of $12.43 billion, a 24% increase over the same period in 2002 when $10.02 billion was spent, according to leading shopping search and comparison site For the first nine months of this year, online sales totaled $37.16 billion, up by 24% from last year's $29.90 billion for the same period.

Actual orders grew by 47% to 101.34 million unique transactions in the third quarter. However, the average purchase amount has decreased by 15% to $123 in Q3 2003 compared to $145 in the same period last year.

                             Q3 2003     Q3 2002   % Change
                             -------     -------   --------
Online Sales 
(billions)                    $12.43      $10.02        24%

Online Orders 
(millions)                    101.34       69.05        47%

Average Purchase Amount 
(dollars)                       $123        $145       (15%)

The lower transaction amounts are being driven by price comparison shopping. In a Online Research Value Panel in September 2003, 78% of online buyers cited they were deal shopping because of tighter budgets. And, ninety-six percent said they comparison shop some, most or all of the time. Nearly half of online buyers (48%) are using aggregators such as comparison shopping sites, shopping portals, search engines and auction sites to start their shopping versus going directly to a merchant site (52%).

Women are also driving most online transactions with September research highlighting that 62% of online buyers were females and only 38% are male.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly deal hungry and are leaning on comparison shopping sites to satiate that hunger,” said Chuck Davis, President & CEO of “As a result, this holiday quarter we expect to see more shoppers being very price and free-shipping sensitive.”

Online shoppers are also expected to show more loyalty to price than store brand this holiday as 45% of shoppers say they would not pay any price premium at all. “But consumers should be on the look out for good merchant ratings if they insist on being guided by low prices because the worst merchants tend to under-price,” adds Davis.

Third Quarter Breakdown
                              July    August   September   Total Q3
                             -----   -------   ---------   -------- 
2003 Online Sales
(Billions)                   $3.93    $4.23      $4.26      $12.43

2002 Online Sales
(Billions)                   $3.05    $3.50      $3.47      $10.02

% Change                        29%      21%        23%        24%

Year-To-Date Quarterly Breakdown

                               Q1       Q2        Q3     Year-To-Date
                            ------    ------    ------   ------------
2003 Online Sales 
(Billions)                  $12.33    $12.41    $12.43      $37.16

2002 Online Sales
(Billions)                   $9.78    $10.11    $10.02      $29.90

% Change                        26%       23%       24%         24%

The top categories in terms of sales volume were computer hardware ($3.09 billion), electronics ($1.97 billion), apparel ($1.28 billion) and entertainment ($1.24 billion). The strongest growth in Q3 came from Food & Wine (up 208%), Gifts & Flowers (up 198%), Office Supplies (up 182%) and Entertainment (up 181%) categories.

For Q4, the holiday quarter, forecasts $18.35 billion in online sales which is a 22% increase in spending over last year's $15.04 billion.