Live From IRWD: How E-tailing Group 100 Merchants Evolved in 2009

Orlando – Chicago-based e-commerce consultancy E-tailing Group conducted its 12th Annual Mystery Shopping Study in the fourth-quarter of 2009.

E-tailing Group president Lauren Freedman selects 100 i-merchants to benchmark for their customer service as part of her E-tailing Group 100. The companies include pure-plays like Zappos to multichannel retailers like Crutchfield and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to traditional department store merchants like Saks Fifth Avenue.

What did Freedman learn about the evolution of e-commerce in 2009? Here are a few highlights from her session Tuesday at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference in Orlando:

  • The average number of clicks to get through the checkout is shrinking… slightly to 5.42 from 5.48 during fourth-quarter 2009. That figure also includes the 27% who find reason to deliver a one-click checkout solution.
  • The use of perpetual shopping carts has risen: 92% of sites reviewed have them, up from 77% in the fourth quarter of 2008. That includes 39% who have a pop-up version that results in a full-cart display.
  • Easy buy/direct-to-cart buying is now found on 62% if the sites, up from 39% last year. Search results, category page and shopping cart are the predominant locations for the option.
  • Creative is also courting customers: 47% of merchants showcase product via themes to drive conversion, 72% tempt buyers and prospects with exclusive items, 35% showcase the awards they receive and 39% tout their media exposure (like a product featured on television).
  • Merchants are also turning product pages into destination pages to suggest, inform and entice. Alternate product views rose to 76% of the sites followed in fourth-quarter 2009 from 68%, and 21% offered three-dimensional product views, up from 10%. Three items of significance on product pages that weren’t charted in 2008: Streaming video product demos (55%), guides and how-to sections (30%) and tips and glossaries (24%).
  • Customization is up: 27% of e-tail group 100 merchants have product configurators while product personalization has grown from 24% in fourth quarter of 2008 to 37% of sites.
  • Ratings and reviews are also seeing growth: They were found on 74% of the sites, up from 58% in 2008. The top-rated reviews are also being used as a selling tactic for 49% of the e-tail group 100 sites, up from 24% the year before.

On the other hand, adoption of social media didn’t seem to live up to the hype. Only 60% of E-tailing Group 100 merchants include a link to a social networking site, Freedman said.

Of that 60%, 85% are promoting their Facebook presence, 73% their Twitter involvement and 35% are touting YouTube. What’s more, only 36% are running blogs on their sites.

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