June 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Internet Retailer Survey: Motivated buyers

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In conjunction with a better internal search engine, the Internet Retailer survey shows that more retailers expect to improve the performance of their e-commerce sites by rolling out more rich media applications and implementing more sophisticated content management systems. With earlier generation e-commerce sites, rich media applications were limited to basic features and functions. But now with the number of broadband Internet users expected to reach 115 million households as soon as 2011, according to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Internet technology research firm In-Stat, a growing number of web merchants is making plans to deploy rich media applications that enable shoppers to compare merchandise in greater detail, view and rotate products in three dimensions and perform other more interactive functions.

More retailers also anticipate augmenting their e-commerce performance with a new content management system that enables them to better organize and present product text and images and utilize more interactive content such as streaming video. For example, of the retailers taking part in the Internet Retailer survey, 30.3% expect to acquire more rich media applications within a year, including 14.9% within six months. In content management, 27.6% anticipate implementing a new system within 12 months and 15.3% within one to two years.

At the same time they are implementing more advanced e-commerce systems, many web merchants are investing in applications and services that support their web site infrastructure and network capability. The Internet Retailer survey finds that 72.3% of retailers use an outside company to host their web site and 46.3% use a third-party application or service to monitor performance. The survey finds that most retailers are happy with their present hosting company, but looking to make a change with their performance monitoring vendor. A total of 60.6% of retailers have no plans to replace their web hosting company. However, of the 46.3% of companies taking part in the research that use an outside performance monitoring tool or service, 44.3% expect to make a change within 24 months including 27.3% within 12 months.

Helping hand

In previous years, retailers purchased a new e-commerce application and then depended upon the vendor or internal staff to implement the technology. However, given shorter implementation deadlines and more sophisticated technology, 41% of merchants taking part in the research expect to hire a consultant or another third party to help with a major e-commerce technology project within the next year.

High on the list of new projects will be updating e-commerce sites with customer reviews and more personalization features. 51% of retailers ranked adding customer reviews as their highest new e-commerce technology priority for this year, followed by 33.3% that want to display information when a shopper hovers the mouse over an image and 30.2% that have plans to employ a content delivery network. “Web retailers will soon be entering an era when their site has to do more than just display merchandise and accept orders,” Garf says. “The retailers that offer a better multi-channel experience using e-commerce technology as a foundation are the ones that will remain the most competitive.” mark@verticalwebmedia.com

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