Six in 10 merchants to invest more in e-commerce this year: survey

As the economy begins to rebound, marketers are planning to reinvest in their e-commerce portals with a particular emphasis on targeted e-mail marketing, improved on-site search and enhanced on-site merchandising, according to a survey by The E-tailing Group.

The organization’s Ninth Annual Merchant Survey found that 59% of respondents plan to invest more in e-commerce in 2010 than they did last year. At the start of 2009, 36% said they would increase e-commerce investment.

With the economy in recession last year, e-commerce, though a bright spot on the broader retail landscape, fell 2% to $209.6 billion, marking the first yearly decline for the category, according to ComScore figures. Nonetheless, 92% of those surveyed predicted their 2010 e-commerce revenues would increase from last year, with 33% predicting growth of between 6% and 15%.

“Seasoned sellers, emerging retailers and manufacturers are all positioning themselves for growth as the economy rebounds,” said Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group, in a statement. “Results of our Ninth Annual Merchant Survey find retailers taking a laser-like focus on performance where results dictate category-centric demands and solid execution sets the tone for incremental revenue.”

Keyword search, cross-sells, seasonal promotions, sales or specials and e-mail remain the most valuable tactics, but merchants continue to improvise new ways to sell.

Online conversion rates remained at 3% or lower, according to the survey. To increase engagement and profitability, merchants are relying on analytic data such as conversion rates, but they also plan to increase targeted e-mail (79%), refine onsite search (72%) and enhance merchandising (70%). Other popular improvement tactics for 2010 include usability or A/B testing (58%), videos (48%) and social networking efforts (58%).

Merchants also mentioned social networking efforts considerably more than last year (44%). More respondents also added blogs, customer reviews and community features such as forums and share-by-social to their sites as well. Facebook fan pages ranked as the top social tool for merchants, though 80% also will employ Twitter in the next year. In addition, nearly 40% plan to use mobile to improve e-commerce performance, compared to 19% last year.

The Chicago-based consultancy surveyed 152 merchants in the first quarter of 2010.

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