February 24, 2009, 12:00 AM

Online budgets avoid the ax at most big companies, Forrester Research says

Despite the recession, 38% of large companies surveyed in December say their online division’s budget will increase this year, 36% expect spending to hold steady and 25% say it will decrease, according to a poll of 53 executives by Forrester Research.

Despite the economy’s woes, more big companies plan to increase their online division`s budget than cut it this year, according to a cross-industry survey by Forrester Research Inc.

“While the online channel isn’t impervious to the downturn, it is faring better than offline channels,” write analysts Carrie Johnson and Elizabeth Davis in the report “The Recession’s Impact on 2009 eBusiness Plans.”

Of the 53 executives from large companies interviewed in December, 38% predicted their online division would have a bigger budget this year than last, 36% said it would be about the same and 25% said it would be cut. And 34% said the percentage of their online budget earmarked for new investment would increase this year. That included 10 of 17 non-financial-services, business-to-consumer companies, which would include retailers. Among financial services firms, which have been especially hard hit in recent months, only four of 22 expect more spending on new projects.

The survey found that only 19% of respondents said they were considering delaying technology purchases, while 72% said their spending plans were unchanged. 26% said they were planning to upgrade their e-commerce platform this year and another 9% in 2010.

Web analytics leads the way in terms of planned investment, with 4% planning a first-time purchase this year, 38% a minor upgrade and 19% a major upgrade. Customer ratings and reviews are also catching on, with 38% planning to add that feature to their sites in 2009.

Forrester surveyed companies with an average of 14,800 worldwide employees and revenues of more than $15 billion in 2008. Those companies spent an average of $13 million on their customer-facing presence last year, with 95 employees dedicated to the online division, the report says.

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