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E-Commerce Results Please Most Retailers

Not only has internet shopping become mainstream for consumers, most executives are pleased with their companies' investments in E-commerce.

Just a few years ago, business leaders questioned whether selling online would prove profitable. Today, the uncertainties are all but gone: 84% of 300 merchants surveyed by the E-commerce consulting firm the E-tailing Group say their top managers are very or somewhat satisfied with the return on investment of their E-commerce efforts.

The survey, released last week, also showed that 87% have integrated online operations into their core businesses, with less than half maintaining separate online and offline profit-and-loss statements. Nearly all the businesses surveyed sell online, with 36% selling through the Internet, catalogs, and retail outlets.

E-commerce is on a long learning curve: Nearly a fifth of respondents didn't know their conversion rates--the percentage of Web-site visitors who make purchases. Worse, nearly half didn't know their shopping-cart-abandonment rates. That's troubling, E-tailing president Lauren Freedman says. "The more information you have, the better you can merchandise the site. Without that information, it becomes a guessing game."
Nonetheless, the Net is a growing sales channel. In 2003, online retail sales soared by 38%, topping $100 billion, according to Forrester Research. Growing nearly 20% a year, online sales could account for 10%--or $230 billion--of all retail sales in four years. Roughly 5 million U.S. households will shop online for the first time each year through 2008, Forrester projects.

New and old-line companies continue to invest in technology to boost online efforts, with 72% of them doing so last year, the E-tailing Group study found.

As some categories such as computer, travel, books, and music mature, retailers will need to become more innovative to grow revenue, says Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation trade group. Says Silverman: "The fruit is hanging higher in the trees these days."

Marseille,04 19 2004
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