November 9, 2011, 9:57 AM

The keys to online sales: Search results, localization and free shipping

The E-tailing Group details what marketing techniques work for online shoppers.

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Online shoppers increasingly look to search results and local product availability when considering purchases, according to a new report from research and advisory firm The E-tailing Group Inc.. And unconditional free shipping also serves as the most important online marketing technique.

The research firm based its report, “The Connected Consumer,” on a survey of more than 1,000 online shoppers conducted in September 2011.

According to the report, here are the most influential online marketing tools cited by respondents ranked in order of importance, and the percentage of respondents who said they were “significantly more” or “somewhat more” influential than a year earlier:

● Search result listings, 43%

● Search results showing local availability, 37%

● E-mails from retailers for which consumers have opted in, 34%

● Ratings and reviews from friends and family, 32%

● Group buying (i.e., Groupon, Living Social), 30%

● Display advertising for products previously viewed online, 23%

● Mobile apps, 19%

● Facebook, 17%

● Text messages from favorite merchants, 13%

● Twitter, 11%

Here are the most significant web site promotional features cited by respondents in order of importance, with the percentage of respondents who cited them as “critical” or “very important” when making an online purchase:

● Unconditional free shipping with purchase, 73%

Free returns, 70%

● A section on the site that identifies sales and specials, 62%

● Coupons or rebates citing discounts in dollars or percentages, 56%

● Percent-off products or categories, 54%

● Rewards and loyalty points, 46%

● Deals available for a limited time, 43%

Free shipping with purchase at a designated purchase threshold, 42%

● Buy more, save more, 34%

● Free gift with purchase, 31%

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