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Want to know where you should be aiming your e-commerce investment to increase online sales?

We asked 100 senior decision makers from leading global retail brands, who were attending the latest Internet Retailer conference, about what they are planning to invest in over the next 12 months.

Looking at the results, there are three key areas that really stood out amongst respondents: 

Website investment comes out on top

Despite the buzz surrounding social or mobile as the next frontiers in e-commerce, the final conversion still occurs on a retailer’s website in the majority of cases, with only 5% reporting having received transactions on social sites.

No surprise then that retail giants are still focusing investment on their e-commerce site. Over the next 12 months, 59% of respondents will make the greatest investment on their websites, followed by 35% on mobile and 22% on social networks.

The number looking to invest in mobile is low, considering the growth in mobile use and the relative lack of investment in the channel by many firms. 

According to Econsultancy's Marketing Budgets 2012 survey, consumers are spending roughly 7% of their time on mobile devices, but companies are investing only 0.5% of their marketing budgets in mobile advertising. 

TIP: With the rise of mobile and social, it is easy to become distracted and move away from areas of the business that, while not new, are still vitally important.

For most retailers, an e-commerce website remains the focal point and key revenue generator where most transactions would take place. In many cases, mobile and social channels are deployed to drive traffic to the website, and the website is where conversion happens. So making sure your website is up to scratch is fundamental to business success.

Rise in affiliate marketing

Elsewhere the results show a rise in affiliate marketing, a technique that is becoming popular to drive sales. Amongst those we questioned, 25% said they plan to invest in affiliate marketing over the next year as a cost-effective way to drive new revenues.  

After asking the respondents about successful affiliate programmes elsewhere in the industry, Amazon came out on top, cited by 47%, followed by eBay, Shopkick and Wrapp. 

TIP: Affiliate marketing is particularly effective for retailers as it is pay on results and has the ability to expose your products to more customers.

By investing in monitoring and measurement, retailers can carefully identify the affiliate networks that are really making a difference.

Time to start pinning

While the level of investment isn’t as high as with websites, social media still plays a vital role in retail planning for next year. 

In the survey, 74% of respondents are using social networks to increase online visibility, not just for sales. Increased visibility is the main driver for social media investment.

It was interesting to note that Pinterest is seen as an increasingly important tool for retailers to use, with 35% of the respondents trying out the new service. This is compared to 74% of respondents using Twitter and 89% using Facebook. 

TIP: As with our first point, it is easy to jump on the ‘shiny new thing’ bandwagon. But Pinterest is an example of a network that, for certain retailers, has shown proven results already. So while caution is needed, experimenting with new channels could usher in some important new revenue generators.

Planning where to invest can be hard for any retailer and this opportunity to get insight into how leading companies are planning for the next 12 months is therefore particularly insightful.

While there are perhaps few surprises here, with the growth of multichannel customer requirements, retailers are increasingly having to experiment with new ways of interacting and engaging with their target audience, using new tools and techniques to guarantee competitive advantage and ROI from marketing programmes.

Maria Wasing

Published 3 September, 2012 by Maria Wasing

Maria Wasing is VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Nick Stamoulis

At the end of the day, your e-commerce site is where your business lives and commerce happens. Social is great for spreading the word and getting people involved, but your site is where they make the final purchase. Everything needs to be seamless there.

over 4 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

Interesting post, I agree with Nick’s comments in the sense that social is a powerful marketing channel, but your website is the main platform where customers will be directed to. This is why your site has to tick all the boxes, so that it’s easier for consumers to successfully buy into your brand without any interruptions. Moving forward, I think greater attention will be given to mobile and social, as companies see the value in investing in these platforms, although your website is arguably the most important out of these three.

over 4 years ago

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ecological investments

Thanks author for your nice site and great discussed about investment...

about 4 years ago

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Mark Simpson

It is of little surprise that on-going website investment remains of primary importance, but in a progressively commoditised retail industry, individual brands will increasingly need to differentiate by offering a better end-to-end customer experience across all their channels.

But establishing a benchmark and then testing every change is critical. No organisation can justify the risk of not knowing the impact that unmeasured and uncontrolled content changes might have in disenfranchising hard won customers or losing revenue.

True ROI on website investment needs to be established through constant optimisation using A/B and multivariate testing to proactively measure and monitor the way individual changes impact customer behaviour and reacting to these changes to drive real time increases in customer conversion, engagement and retention.

Three areas are key:

Mobile – optimising the mobile experience to improve the customer experience whilst making the website and mobile experience consistent to improve the overall brand interaction.

Social interaction – there is a significant opportunity for retailers to use consumers’ rich social data, to offer a more relevant customer experience through all digital channels, using the data to personalise the web and mobile experience.

Personalisation - adopting personalisation through both rules based and self-learning algorithms, that drives customer engagement not just for one off transactions but prompts repeat visits and maximises long term value.

The technology and expertise is now in place to facilitate the strategic real time customer experience optimisation that will ensure customers return time and time again through their channel of choice, share the good experience via social networking and deliver long term financial value to the business.

about 4 years ago

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