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With Christmas looming, e-commerce retailers predict steady growth

How confident are e-commerce retailers about their future growth? A new survey of hundreds of midsize retailers in Australian and New Zealand has revealed the vast majority are remarkably upbeat.

In the Q3 2017 instalment of SLI Systems’ E-commerce Performance Indicators and Confidence (EPIC) Report, 92 per cent of survey respondents said they expect to grow this quarter, with 20 per cent predicting rises of 21 per cent or more.

In addition, 87 per cent said they expect higher online revenues than last year.

The majority of respondents (80 per cent) also said they expect increased sales this Christmas, although most predicted modest rises of up to 10 per cent. Only four per cent are anticipating aggressive increases over 30 per cent.

Nevertheless, Carter Perez, vice president of sales at SLI Systems, said, “We’re seeing retailers working to ensure their platform and search strategies are in peak shape for driving Christmas site traffic and optimising merchandising and conversion.”

That is reflected in the survey finding that replatforming is now the top initiative for 17 per cent of respondents, followed by customer experience (16 per cent) and then inventory, logistics and fulfillment (15 per cent).

Perez told Internet Retailing that with some retailers generating as much as 80 per cent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping period, having a website that can handle the increased traffic and transactions is critical.

“We are seeing retailers stress test their websites to ensure they can handle the expanded traffic – after all, you only get one chance to make a holiday sale. Merchandising is of course a key focus and getting your e-commerce shopfront looking as good as in-store is key,” Perez said.

“Retailers are designing their holiday campaigns and deciding what they will offer specials on and over what period. These campaigns need to be supported via banners on their website, paid advertising, and if they have bricks-and-mortar locations, point-of-sale and aisle promotional signs, and enough product on hand to satisfy anticipated demand.

“As early as November 1, it’s ‘code freeze’ time; many retailers freeze their website and other supporting platform and software code as early as November 1 – as any small glitch introduced via a software or platform change that interrupts the shopping experience can result in lost sales and missed revenue.”

Other highlights from the Q3 2017 EPIC Report

  • More than one third of online retailers plan to add artificial intelligence to their e-commerce strategy, with 20 per cent planning to do so within the next year
  • The most popular applications for AI are personalised product recommendations (56 per cent), customer service requests (41 per cent) and chatbots (35 per cent)
  • Very few e-commerce professionals currently use AI for virtual reality, voice-activated apps, augmented reality or virtual buying assistants, or plan to in the next year
  • 80 per cent expect revenue from mobile sites and apps to increase compared to the same quarter in 2016, with 100 per cent of those in hardware and 93 per cent in apparel anticipating an increase
  • Only 20 per cent of respondents plan to sell to new geographic markets, compared to 30 per cent in the first and second quarters
  • 45 per cent estimate a rise in Q3 in-store revenue, an improvement of six percentage points from Q2


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