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New survey reports on the state of play for US online retailers

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Over one third (34%) of the 190 senior level US ecommerce executives surveyed for the 8th Annual Merchant Survey, conducted by The E-tailing Group, say their internet revenues will be down or flat in 2009 versus 2008. The balance of respondents continue to see growth, but most (39%) project revenue increases of just 1% to 15%.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Management dissatisfaction with ROI and dropping conversion rates has resulted in shifting strategic goals with merchants placing greater emphasis on profitability.

  • 70% of those surveyed say they still intend to invest the same or somewhat more in ecommerce as they did last year as it is the fastest growing part of their business.

  • Sources of information to make merchandising decisions now universally rely on analytics (92%), followed by sales history (73%). There is also a growing dependency on conversion data for 68% of surveyed merchants this year against 53% last year, along with customer ratings and reviews cited by 39% against 28% in 2008. Competitive benchmarking, a new metric in this year’s survey, is being used as an information source by half the respondents.

  • As merchants tweak their sites for optimal performance and ROI, there is continued emphasis on targeted email — which 76% will increase — and adding or improving onsite search (69%), upgrading site design (67%) and enhancing on-site merchandising (65%).

“Looking to the internet for elusive sales, these merchants recognize that the online channel is core to multi-channel success,” says Lauren Freedman, president at The E-tailing Group. “However, the pressure for performance is greater than it has ever been as senior management seeks profits while customers demand more from every ecommerce experience.”

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