Pacing the E-commerce Marathon

To succeed online, it helps to think of e-commerce as a marathon, not a sprint, says Lauren Freedman, president of Chicago-based e-commerce consultancy The E-tailing Group. “For most merchants, there are not a lot of significant changes ahead. But you still have to take the nose-to-the-grindstone approach and accept that e-commerce is critical to business. Like a marathon runner, you just have to keep grinding out the miles.”

In its fourth annual Merchant Survey of consumer marketers, online sales represented no more than 10% of overall business for 36% of those surveyed. At the same time, the Web accounted for more than 40% of business for 34% of those surveyed.

Even though changes in overall e-commerce strategy may be minimal in the short term, Freedman insists that knowing your business and your customers has never been more critical. “Merchants must choose to push themselves to step up their overall efforts. There are lots of catalogs out there, for example, that no one reads. People expect high satisfaction levels,” she says.

To that end, respondents were asked to identify the elements most crucial to overall success. Participants rated 44 features on a five-point scale from most to least valuable. The top five were: seasonal promotions, 94% e-mail as a merchandising vehicle, 91% keyword search, 91% sales or specials, 90% cross-sells, 84%.

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