August 5, 2010, 11:41 AM

80% of midsized merchants deem e-commerce growth a top priority

40% say they don’t think they’re maximizing their online revenue potential.

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 When it comes to the laundry list of priorities for merchants and consumer products manufacturers, growing web sales come out on top for many. A new poll by e-commerce platform provider Art Technology Group Inc. finds 80% of midsized merchants deem e-commerce growth as very important or critical to their overall business in the next one to three years.

While e-commerce growth is deemed important, merchants may have to make some changes to make it happen. 40% of the merchants say they don’t think their company’s online shopping experience maximizes revenue potential.

The study polled 60 executives responsible for their company’s e-commerce initiatives at retail, telecommunications, consumer manufacturing and technology companies. The businesses had overall revenue of as much as $500 million and web revenue up to $100 million.

The research also asked about the e-commerce aspects merchants most want to improve over the next 6 to 25 months. It finds: 

 • 62% want to improve the ability to offer, control and manage cross-sells and up-sells to increase sales

 • 60% want to improve site search functionalities

 • 55% want to be better able to offer, control, and manage promotions

 • 37% want to improve the help and customer service features on their sites

Additionally, while 98% of mid-sized merchants indicate that segmentation and targeting are important to their overall web and cross-channel merchandising strategy—with 51% deeming the tools very important or crucial—more than half are not satisfied with the business tools they have for merchandising and promotions.

66% of respondents say their merchandising and promotions tools are too manual and 38% report they are too difficult to use. Additionally, 30% of executives say their businesses do not have enough control over site content for merchandising and promotions and 23% feel they do not have enough control over the product catalog.

When it comes to prioritizing improvements, 74% of merchants say improving their business tools for merchandising and promotions is an important priority and 78% say the same for improving business tools for content and site management.

To improve web sales performance and customer service, 53% plan to try out emerging sales channels including mobile and social commerce, 42% plan to invest in add-on web site features such as widgets and 33% plan to replace their existing e-commerce platforms.  Related to the last is the fact that a significant number of respondents say they do not have confidence that their current site can grow with their company. Nearly a third of all survey participants say they are not confident their current platform can handle their growth over the next three years and 37% say they are unhappy with their current site availability and uptime.

Merchants also were asked to rank the sales growth metrics they are most looking to improve. The majority say achieving larger order sizes and higher conversion rates for visitors already shopping their sites are a higher priority than encouraging new and return visitors. 68% say increasing conversion rates is one of their most important growth metrics, and 67% say higher average order sizes. That’s compared with the 51% focused on driving new site visitors and 41% who name driving return visits.

Respondents also were asked to select specific features that they plan to invest in to achieve their sales goals:

• Nearly 70% selected improved functionality of site search and faceted site search.

• 52% selected multivariate and A/B testing capabilities

• 52% selected automated recommendations engines

• 40% selected social media and community features

• 34% selected mobile commerce capabilities and applications

• Nearly 30% selected click-to-call and click-to-chat live help options

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