Research firm comScore said online spending in the United States rose 12 percent to $32.6 billion for the entire November-December 2010 holiday shopping season, thanks to an exceptional Cyber Monday and the impact of free shipping.

comScore said spending rebound strongly from the recession of 2008 and 2009, and slightly exceed even its early expectations. Retailers targeted many of their promotions even earlier than usual and enjoyed the benefits.

The season will be remembered for an exceptional Cyber Monday.........and of course, we cannot forget the impact of free shipping, which was used in more than half of all e-commerce transactions this season, up significantly from last year, said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

Cyber Monday, (Monday, Nov. 29) was the first billion-dollar spending day in history, while Green Monday (Monday, Dec. 13) ranked as the second heaviest day at $954 million, followed by Monday, December 6 at $943 million. Free Shipping Day (Friday, Dec. 17) ranked fourth at $942 million.

The research firm had said purchases of handheld devices such as Apple iPads and e-readers and laptop computers drove growth in computer hardware.