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Online retailers get back to basics

NEW YORK — Online retailers are focused on retaining existing shoppers by giving them a better online shopping experience.

As shoppers become increasingly connected, online retailers are developing strategies to increase web conversion and loyalty.

According to the 2013 Shop.org/Forrester Research Inc. State of Retailing Online survey, 51% of retailers surveyed say their top priority for 2013 is site optimization, including checkout optimization, alternative payments, user experience, testing and product detail page enhancements.

“Retailers have responded to rapidly evolving customer use of mobile devices, dedicating much of the past 12 to 18 months to developing and testing rich mobile offerings for both customers and store associates,” said Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell. “While direct mobile commerce is still small, mobile services are now an established and significant part of the shopping experience. Retailers this year are smartly investing to create a holistic customer experience across stores, desktop and mobile to improve conversion rates, grow crucial repeat customer business, and even capture their share of customer demand from international markets.”

Additionally, 43% of retailers surveyed note that mobile and tablets are among their top three priorities for 2013. These companies plan to invest in new or improved mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites, analytics and traffic and conversion growth. Among other customer experience investments this year, 27% of retailers surveyed plan to prioritize site redesign.

Overall, online retail remains healthy: 58% of those surveyed say their conversion rates in 2012 grew over 2011, and many companies say their cart abandonment rate was either stable or even down compared to 2011. And while respondents are split regarding mobile’s impact on conversion rates, the study shows a net positive impact: 36% of retailers surveyed say that mobile sales and traffic have helped their company’s overall web conversion rate, while 29% have felt a negative impact.

“Despite continued growth in mobile commerce, it will be important for retailers in 2013 to pause and understand the opportunities, distractions and implications of mobile within the e-commerce landscape,” said Forrester Research VP and principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “But it’s promising to see that even though there is market pressure to invest in everything from mobile and free shipping to international growth, retailers have improved key metrics while keeping customer service and fulfillment costs in check.”

With fewer new shoppers to attract these days, online retailers have fewer opportunities for new customer acquisitions, so they are more focused on retaining and driving value for existing shoppers. According to the survey, 53% say they have been able to increase the average order value for repeat customers throughout the past year, and 52% of those surveyed have seen an increase in their repeat customer rate.

Shop.org is a division of the National Retail Federation. Its 600 members include the 10 largest retailers in the United States and more than 60% of the Internet Retailer Top 100 E-Retailers. Forrester Research is an independent research company that offers advice to global leaders in business and technology. Forrester works with professionals in 17 key roles at major companies providing proprietary research, customer insight, consulting, events, and peer-to-peer executive programs. Both organizations work together to execute the survey, which takes date from 62 companies surveyed for the State of Retailing Online 2013: Key Metrics.

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