April 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Customer service is tops at retaining customers, survey says

The three top ways to retain online customers, in order of importance, are offering exemplary customer service, marketing to consumers through targeted and segmented e-mail campaigns, and streamlining the checkout process, The E-Tailing Group reports.

The three top ways to retain online customers, in order of importance, are offering exemplary customer service, marketing to consumers through targeted and segmented e-mail campaigns, and streamlining the checkout process, The E-Tailing Group says in its 8th Annual Merchant Survey.

Among other information about operating retail web sites, the report also noted what retailers say drives their merchandising decisions and what they use as their top merchandising and site navigation tactics. The survey was based on interviews with 190 e-commerce executives during the first quarter of this year.

When asked to name the top ways to retain customers, the largest group, or 47%, cited exemplary customer service, 41% named targeted and segmented e-mail and 31%, streamlined checkout.

Following are the leading sources of information cited in the report, by percent of retailers, for making merchandising decisions:

Web analytics, 92%
Sales history, 73%
Conversion data, 68%
Seasonal promotions, 63%
Brand strategy, 60%
Inventory data, 58%
Cross-channel initiatives, 51%
Customer acquisition/retention strategies, 53%
Competitive benchmarking, 50%
Product margin, 49%
Sales ranking, 45%
Search marketing performance data, 42%
Customer ratings and reviews, 39%
Search data, 39%
E-mail purchasing patterns, 33%
Customer profiling, 30%
Trending data, 25%
Vendor co-op, 19%

Following are the top merchandising and site navigation tactics cited in the report, by percent of retailers:

Site design that improves shopping experience, 58%
Promotional offers to existing customers, 50%
E-mail marketing campaigns, 44%
Improved site search and/or landing page optimization, 43%
Assessing analytics data to see what works, 36%
Refreshing web content for returning customers, 32%

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