"Companies are investing in new features that will keep customers coming back, and home pages everywhere are getting a major facelift," reports the survey, which polled 150 retailers. Shop.org is a division of the National Retail Federation.
In the 12 months ahead, 88% of retailers say they plan to improve product detail pages, with 80% adding alternative images, 72% incorporating lifestyle photography, and 63% integrating customer ratings and reviews. More are also integrating top sellers with "what's new" sections, and adding and making dropdown menus and rollover lists in key navigational areas.
Merchants are also investing in customer service features, with 33% adding more live chats, and 53% enhancing the checkout process.
In 2006, online customer acquisition tactics continued to be the top marketing priority, getting 51% of the marketing dollars. Retailers spent an additional 24% of marketing budgets on online customer retention programs. And retailers say paid search remains the most effective way to acquire customers, and e-mail alerts--used by 73% of retailers--the cheapest, most effective tool for customer retention.
One of the survey's major findings is that retailers are becoming more fluent in selling across channels and of total marketing spend, 18% is now directed toward driving cross-channel sales, up from 13% in the prior year. And it's working: Respondents say 43% of catalog customers have also purchased from their online store and that 35% of online customers have also gone into an actual retail location. Direct mail continues to be a favorite weapon, with 66% of the respondents saying they "measure the success of a catalog by how it increases Web sales."