E-commerce spending for 2011 reached a record high $161.5 billion which was good for a 13 percent increase from 2010. Nearly a third of the yearly total was spent in the fourth quarter alone, according to the latest report from research firm comScore.

Consumers shelled out $49.7 billion in the last three months of 2011, up 14 percent versus the previous year. The report notes that this growth rate represented the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.

The fourth quarter surge was highlighted by 10 individual days that surpassed the $1 billion mark in online spending. Cyber Monday, which became the heaviest online shopping day in history, led the charge at $1.251 billion while December 5 ranked second at $1.178 billion, followed by Green Monday (December 12) with $1.133 billion in sales.

comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni indicated that price and convenience continue to be the critical value drivers for e-commerce. 52 percent of online transactions included free shipping, an all-time high. The previous record was 49 percent set in the fourth quarter of 2010.

"The fourth quarter of 2011 capped off what was yet another strong year for online retail, one in which every quarter achieved double-digit increases versus the prior year," said Fulgoni. "In the face of continuing uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy, consumers increasingly went online for their shopping needs."

Shoppers are becoming more informed as well with many consumers using their smartphones to check prices and product features while physically in a retail store. Fulgoni believes that unless the majority of these conditions change, we can expect to see more consumers shopping online in 2012 that could accelerate the current growth even more.

Chart image from Shutterstock.