February 20, 2013, 3:01 PM

Blizzard or hurricane? Most small e-retailers would just go mobile

30% of them say they could run their businesses via mobile devices.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Most small web retailers would use e-mail to keep in touch with customers during a natural disaster, and use mobile devices to keep running their businesses, suggest survey findings from China-based e-commerce operator Alibaba Group and two U.S. subsidiaries.

30% of the responding companies say they could keep their e-commerce businesses operating because their data are stored “in the cloud,” that is, on remote web servers. Of the 70% that feel vulnerable to natural disaster, 23% say they maintain their Internet servers and data on-site.

The findings are based on a December survey conducted by Alibaba and two U.S. companies it bought in 2010, Auctiva and Vendio, both of which provide tools for sellers on eBay and other online marketplaces. Survey responses came from 600 Vendio and Auctiva customers, 80% of them based in the U.S. and more than 95% in North America. 97% of the retailers that responded to the survey sell online, 80% are web-only retailers; 82% had 2012 revenue of $50,000 or less.

The survey found that 62% of retailers said they could run their businesses via mobile devices were a storm or other natural disaster to strike. 86% of retailers would use e-mail to contact customers, with 42% using phone and text, 27% web sites, 22% Facebook, 8% Twitter, 5% Google+ and 4% LinkedIn. Respondents could select multiple answers.

36% of respondents would “communicate directly with customers right away” after a natural disaster. That compares with 42% that would save products, inventory or office materials, and 14% that would update their web sites to “reflect changes and latest status.” (The report did not account for the remaining 8%.)

76% of respondents said a natural disaster has never affected their businesses, while 74% said they lack what the survey calls a “natural disaster recovery plan.” 84% of respondents report having no insurance to cover losses from natural disasters.

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