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e-tailing-group-planned-ecommerce-activities-april201.jpgOnline retailers are looking at an array of possibilities for improving their website performance, but the initiative that stands out to most is more targeted email programs, cited by 81% of respondents to an e-tailing group survey [pdf] released in April 2012. Roughly 7 in 10 are planning to enhance their onsite merchandising features, add or improve onsite search including navigation and taxonomy, and develop content. Given that these retailers are seeing an increasing amount of traffic from mobiles, a significant proportion are planning on developing a mobile commerce site (48%) or mobile application (31%).

Customer Experience Top Priority

The prevalence of initiatives supporting an enhanced customer experience is not surprising when looking at online merchants’ priorities for this year. When asked the top 3 issues they will devote the most time to this year, respondents gave customer experience top billing (31%), ahead of marketing (22%) and channels (19%).

Looking at the different channels employed by these merchants, the survey finds that email marketing is most widespread (86%), while 54% also have a store channel, and almost half run catalog-based models.

E-Commerce Getting the Job Done

Data from the e-tailing group’s “11th Annual Merchant Survey” indicates that 81% of merchants believe that senior management is very or somewhat satisfied with the ROI of their organization’s e-commerce efforts. Indeed, a high proportion say that metrics such as revenue (86%) and traffic to site (81%) have somewhat or significantly increased over the past year (2011), while many have seen corresponding increases in average order size (65%) and conversion (60%).

Leveraging Data Remains Challenging

e-tailing-group-e-retailers-marketing-data-april2012.jpgIn what has become a recurring theme, despite the promise of data-driven marketing, few online merchants are finding the right recipe for using their data to effectively market to customers and prospects. Just 44% strongly or somewhat agreed that their existing data allows them to effectively segment their customers, and that was the most enthusiastic response of any of the aspects identified. Only about 3 in 10 agreed that their data allows them to tie real-time customer information into future marketing initiatives, or that their current data is delivered in a digestible format. And slightly less than one-quarter said that they currently receive a 360-degree view of the customer.

According to a survey released in March 2012 by Columbia University’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and the New York American Marketing Association (NYAMA), 45% of senior marketers say they are not using their data to effectively personalize their marketing communications, and 42% indicate that they are unable to link data at the level of an individual customer. Similarly, survey results from Acxiom and Loyalty 360 released in March 2012 found that marketers were slightly more likely to report that they do not have a 360 degree view of their customers than they do (43.5% vs. 41.3%).

Other Findings:

  • When asked to rank the top merchandising and navigational tactics for customer retention, the tactic most commonly identified as either somewhat or most important by the e-tailing group survey respondents was analytics evaluation to see what works (93%).
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents somewhat or completely agreed that their view of personalization is centered on segmentation of shopping groups or types rather than a true 1-to-1 vision.

About the Data: The 11th Annual Merchant Survey was fielded in Q1 to senior executives with with responsibility for e-commerce. 147 respondents completed the survey.

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