March 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Despite economy, many e-retailers plan to spend more on customer experience

While the economy is likely to have e-retailers rein in budgets in many areas, a significant number of online merchants and other companies plan to increase spending to improve the customer experience, a new report from Forrester Research Inc. finds.

Although the economic downturn is likely to have e-retailers rein in budgets in many areas, a significant number of online merchants and other companies plan to increase spending to improve the customer experience, according to a new report from Forrester Research Inc. And if the economy gets worse most businesses say funds set aside for improving customer experience wouldn’t be cut any more than other budgets. Just 12% say they’d expect it to be singled out for more cuts.

In terms of specific areas of investment, 35% of companies say they expect to spend more on persona development this year, while 23% expect to spend more on outside web design services, according to Forrester’s report, “Customer experience budgets weather the storm in 2009.”

Most of those surveyed, 54%, plan to spend more on web design including technologies and services. But for design services specifically, more of those surveyed – 27% -- say they will increase spending on internal design staff and services, than on looking outside to design agency services (23%) or other types of design service vendors (19%).

Many businesses also plan to spend more on web analytics and site satisfaction measurement tools such as surveys and feedback forums. 40% of those surveyed say they expect to increase spending on behavioral analytics in 2009. 35% say they’ll spend more on web site satisfaction measurement tools, according to Forrester.

So, besides boosting sales, what is the biggest reason for spending on customer experience? Making the web site easier to use. That was cited most frequently as the top reason for spending on customer experience, with 78% listing it as the No. 1 reason.

“Great experiences are key to attracting and retaining customers in this environment, so customer experience professionals shouldn’t be afraid to ask for funding in 2009,” says Forrester analyst and report author Megan Burns. “Just be sure to make an argument that’s in tune with the current business climate by positioning web usability as a cost-cutting measure.”

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