(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Amid a seismic shift in how U.S. consumers shop, retailers are vying for time on their customers’ screens across all their devices - before, during and after a purchase. That is according to The State of Retailing Online 2017: Key Metrics, Business Objectives and Mobile report, released by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division and Forrester.
Forrester forecasted that in 2016 direct online sales totaled 11.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touch points actually impacted an estimated 49 percent of total U.S. retail sales.
In response, this year retailers are focusing on several key areas to enhance customer experiences across all touch points, growing their business for the long term. For example, 54 percent of retailers note that mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017, as are marketing (46 percent), site merchandising (42 percent) and omnichannel efforts (22 percent).
“Smartphones are driving retail sales more than ever, and retailers have found that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns,” NRF Vice President for Digital Retail Artemis Berry said. “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”
Among retailers surveyed, smartphones, on average, made up 30 percent of online sales and 47 percent of online traffic, and sales made on smartphones were up an average of 65 percent year-over-year.
The study found that most retailers are foregoing flashy emerging technology such as virtual and augmented reality, and instead are investing in customer experience. Forty-five percent of retailers surveyed said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience, and customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year, with features like live chat offering them an opportunity to connect with their customers.
“Today’s customers are empowered with information and technology,” Forrester Vice President and Research Director Fiona Swerdlow said. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mind-set to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touch point. It’s about having all aspects of the business - stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more - work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”
About the State of Retailing Online Report
The State of Retailing Online research series, which provides e-commerce executives with annual industry benchmarks of marketing and business investment and activities, surveyed 74 companies in October 2016. Industries surveyed included apparel and accessories, footwear, general merchandise, home furnishings, personal care and sporting goods.
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs - 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.
Forrester (NASDAQ: FORR) is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world, working with business and technology leaders to develop customer-obsessed strategies that drive growth. Forrester’s unique insights are grounded in annual surveys of more than 500,000 consumers and business leaders worldwide, rigorous and objective methodologies and the shared wisdom of their most innovative clients.