Study says online retailers stick to proven strategies but experiment with mobile

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Online retailers are sticking to basics when spending their marketing budgets. However, they're also expanding quickly into areas such as mobile and social marketing, according to a study from Forrester Research and Shop.org.

Marketing spending by e-retailers is still mostly focused on time-tested methods, such as paid search and e-mail, according to the study. While interactive marketing budgets vary by company, web merchants big and small spend the largest share of their marketing dollars on paid search, at about 40%. E-mail and affiliate marketing rounded out the top spending strategies, regardless of budget size.

Retailers are big believers in search-engine marketing. Ninety percent named it among their top three tactics for drawing in new customers, followed by affiliate programs (50%) and organic traffic (42%).

E-tailers are developing new marketing tactics involving social media and mobile marketing, but those are still early in development. According to the study, retailers are much more confident in the potential of mobile marketing, regardless of the hype of social media networks.

“It's imperative for online retailers to stay on top of what their customers want, and these days it's all mobile all the time,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, the interactive arm of the National Retail Federation.

Mobile's potential is still modest for retailers, who reported on average that 2.8% of their site traffic and 2% of their Web revenue came from mobile browsers. Still, 74% have a mobile marketing strategy, or are developing one, including 20% that are already refining existing strategies. Among the top enhancements planned this year are customer ratings and reviews (44%), product and price information (36%), coupons (31%), store information (31%) and alerts of store events and sales (31%).

Meanwhile, 86% of retailers have a social media page and 78% have microblog feeds such as Twitter. However, the use of social media remains experimental. Eighty percent of retailers say they do it mainly to test the medium, and 59% say the returns are still unclear.

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