Retailers See E-Commerce as Main Digital Platform Across Channels

January 30, 2012

rsr-cross-channel.jpgThe vast majority (89%) of retailers with comparable store/channel sales growth of over 4% (“winners”) agree that their e-commerce platform will ultimately serve as the central point of all digital activity across channels, and 94% agree that the future of online commerce lies more with cross-channel or merged channel capabilities, according to [download page] a report released in January 2012 by RSR Research. Those with comparable store/channel sales growth of less than 4% (“laggards”) also agree, but to a lesser extent: 62% see their e-commerce platform as ultimately becoming their digital platform across all channels, and 70% agree that the future of online lies more with cross-channel.

In fact, 34% of retailers report being in pilot to extend their e-commerce platform as a mobile platform, with a further 38% budgeting or planning to do so. And 21% plan to one day use their e-commerce platform at their point of sale, while 36% have already taken steps to do so.

Digital Channels Grow, as do Expectations

Data from “eCommerce 2012 – Back to the Future” indicates that 84% of the retailers surveyed in 2011 operated an online channel, up 17% from 72% in 2010. Along with an increased presence in the online channel, retailers’ expectations for what digital channels can contribute to their business continue to grow. While just 13% cited the percentage of sales coming from their online channel today to be 25% or greater, one-third said it would be so in 3 years.

Channel proliferation spread into mobile also, with 44% engaged in mobile commerce, up 76% from one-quarter the previous year. Retailers’ best be careful to optimize their mobile experiences, though: according to a report released in November 2011 by Limelight Networks, 2 in 5 mobile shoppers penalize retailers for unsatisfactory site experiences. 20% of mobile shoppers respond to a bad shopping experience on their mobile device by completing their research and/or purchase but vowing to never return to the site in the future if they can avoid it, with a further 18% saying they abandon the site and seek alternative brands using their device.

Meanwhile, according to RSR survey results, retailers presence in traditional channels is falling as they expand into digital channels. The only 2 channels to show a decline in respondents reporting a presence were catalog (from 27% to 24%), and stores (from 84% to 80%).

Consumer Engagement Among Top Biz Challenges

rsr-e-commerce-challenges.jpgThe top 3 e-commerce business challenges most cited by winners included keeping up with evolving consumer shopping patterns, getting consumers to engage more online, and maintaining growth rates (all at 54%). These were also cited as the top challenges by laggards, although they gave top billing to online consumer engagement and growth rates (both at 64%). More than twice as many winners as laggards said that providing more ways for consumers to connect with each other through their brand was a top 3 challenge (46% vs. 21%).

Customer Engagement Also Top Operational Challenge

Understanding and accommodating how different customer segments engage with them is the most widespread top 3 operational challenge for both winners (65%) and laggards (75%), followed by difficulty coordinating with other channels to create a seamless cross-channel experience (48% of winners, and 58% of laggards). Laggards appear far more uncertain about what makes for a differentiated online experience than winners: three-quarters said they had not yet defined what a differentiated experience looks or feels like for their brand, compared to just 13% of winners.

About the Data: RSR conducted an online survey from September to December 2011 and received answers from 94 qualified retail respondents across the world. 31% had 2010 revenue of less than $50 million, while 41% had 2010 revenue of over $1 billion.

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