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Shop.org study finds retailers investing on email, paid search

Huntington Beach, Calif. - To capitalize on mobile traffic growth, retailers are investing in digital marketing campaigns across various devices.

Their top investment priorities include email and paid search, based on findings from the Shop.org/Forrester Research Inc. study, "The State Of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing & Merchandising."

Nearly nine in 10 - or 87% - of online retailers surveyed either already have implemented or are planning to implement mobile email optimization in 2013, and seven in 10 will upgrade paid search for smartphones and tablets (71% and 73%, respectively).

"As consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets in the United States reaches critical mass, retailers know that their marketing mix has to work optimally for all customer touch points now," said Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell.

For the study, 65 companies were surveyed, and they included apparel, footwear, general merchandise, home furnishings, and personal care retailers.

"Email has always been one of most effective customer retention vehicles in the market, so it's no surprise to see retailers investing to make email engaging and relevant for the increasingly mobile consumer," she added.

Retailers said in the study that on average, 28% of emails sent to customers are first opened on a smartphone; the stakes are higher for small retailers, who say that on average 42% of their emails are first opened on a smartphone.

Online retailers are also gearing up to hire more web marketing positions in 2013, the study showed. Across all digital platforms, email and search are where 80% of retailers are most likely to invest more this year than last, including allocations to beef up skill sets and staff.

In addition, 40% of retailers surveyed plan to fill open positions in marketing analytics this year, "reflecting the need to wrestle down volumes of marketing data to create more effective interactions and an improved customer experience," Shop.org noted.

For merchandisers, improving the customer shopping experience is a priority. For online retailers, enhancements include video, personalized content, and more. Nearly three-quarters (72%) will invest in integrating video on their sites; another 62% will focus on improving their recommendations and personalization features, including integrating capabilities to create different home pages and creating unique pages for their customers based on purchase history.

"Retailers continue to optimize the customer experience on their site and to that end have made investments in A/B testing, product detail page enhancements, and personalization mainstream," said Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research vp and principal analyst. "Going forward, however, we expect to see much more emphasis on checkout enhancements, as that is a key obstacle for direct transactions on mobile devices."

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