April 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

Nearly half of e-retailers plan to participate more in social networks

48% of e-retailers say increasing their use of social networking sites is one of their top five strategic initiatives this year, according to a new study.

48% of e-retailers say increasing their use of social networking sites is one of their top five strategic initiatives this year, according to a Retail Horizons study co-authored by the National Retail Federation Foundation and accounting and consulting firm KPMG LLC.

Establishing a robust social media presence enables retailers to track feedback, trends and other indicators that can inform their product and marketing strategies, says the report, which is based on a survey of 300 retailers.

“Positive public opinion can boost sales and burnish brands, while negative feedback-if left unaddressed-can have the opposite effect,” says the report. “Given its reach and influence, the industry must take an active role in monitoring online conversations and learning the most effective ways to engage with the consumer across the range of social media.”

79% of retailers surveyed said their companies were active on Facebook and 61% said they were active on Twitter. However, only half of those retailers with a social media presence said they integrated those social media programs with their e-commerce site. That underscores the need for better cross-channel integration, says the report.

Also on the short list of retailers’ strategic initiatives is increasing their use of personalization. Here are four personalization features with the percentage of retailers currently using each feature and the percentage that plan to add the feature in the next 18 months:

  • Retain customer information so that it doesn’t have to be reentered, 69%, 14%
  • Send targeted marketing information to customers based on customers’ interests or clickstream data as they enter and move through the site, 36%, 57%
  • Show a customer’s name on the web site, 28%, 28%
  • Offer customer-specific purchase suggestions, 21%, 48%

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