Despite a struggling economy throughout most of this year, the majority of online retailers continue to be cautiously optimistic about how their businesses will perform during the next 12 months. According to The State of Retailing Online 2008, the 11th annual Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research, Inc., 72 percent of online retailers believe that the online channel is better suited to withstand an economic slowdown than offline channels.
About one-third (35%) of online retailers surveyed said they expect their online business to perform better than expected in the next 12 months, while another third (33%) anticipate their online business will perform the same as expected. This optimistic outlook is driven primarily by past results. According to the report, 81 percent of online retailers surveyed reported that their eCommerce business was profitable in 2007, and 75 percent were also more profitable last year than in 2006. Almost half (49%) of online retailers said that their average conversion rate in 2007 was higher than in 2006, and that 36 percent of total sales for the online retailers were driven by repeat customers—higher than in 2006. However, due to their outlook for the US economy, 37 percent of survey respondents noted that they've lowered their expectations for their online business performance in the next 12 months.
The report advises that online retailers must still execute well to capture possible sales. Additionally, it cautions that those sales may not necessarily be the highest-margin revenue due to increased input costs and the pressure to offer promotions such as free shipping.
The report notes that online retailers are still challenged in creating cohesive customer experiences among multiple sales channels. While many web teams continue to operate in silos, apart from store and catalog teams, multichannel retailers report that half of online customers also shop in the company's stores or through its catalogs, exemplifying why online employees should have a vested interest in stores' performance and vice versa. The report recommends that online retailers devise practical, measurable goals and incentives to motivate employees in all parts of the company — whether they are tied directly to the web or not — to promote sales in all channels that the retailer offers.More information on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be found at www.CRMindustry.com