Being multi-dimensional is growing in importance as retailers now have to deliver their customer experience across a wide range of devices and channels, according to a survey by the E-Tailing Group. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Now more than ever, with Amazon being a click away for every shopper and a threat to every retailer, improving the customer experience is essential for differentiation and survival. But striving for excellence and delivering superior personalised shopping experiences means compelling merchandising and targeted marketing to meet and exceed the expectations of today's connected consumers.

A quick look at the numbers is encouraging as investment is forthcoming with 3 out of 4 retailers investing more in 2013 than in 2012. For example, key indicators are all trending upward indicating strong growth year-over-year on metrics that impact profitability. In every instance retailers report somewhat/significant increases starting with units per order for just under half while revenue gains anchor the list and almost universally increase at 87%.

Conversion rates saw movement into the 3.0% - 4.9% range as retailers learn the ropes, where 70% cited gains year-over-year. Continued emphasis keying in on conversion should be expected, given the overarching customer experience direction cited by retailers in open-ended questions. And shopping cart abandonment rates have declined, thanks largely to dedicated merchant efforts.

To gain an understanding of the value of specific merchandising tactics, 50 features were ranked on a 5-point scale (5 being very valuable and 1 indicating not at all valuable in driving revenue and results). In a world of price transparency and flash sales, it's not surprising to note that a promotional tactic like limited-hour promotions would see an 18% gain. Small gainers included tactics that exposed products earlier or better including quick view, colour change or interactive tools, while unconditional and conditional free shipping and social marketing from Twitter to social log-in all received retailer attention for their ability to drive ROI.

Personalisation also plays an important role. Product page recommendations were common on the majority of retailer websites (56%), and email followed suit with one in three retailers employing retargeting and making use of email alerts. Additionally, three out of four retailers take advantage of personalisation.

Mobile investment is gaining ground too, with just under half the retailers planning to spend under US$50,000 on it in 2013, and the remaining retailers making more substantial investments. Two out of three retailers now have mobile-optimised web sites, and half have barcodes or QR codes in place. For the majority of retailers, traffic patterns from the mobile channel have catapulted to double digits as they see 5% - 20% of their web traffic coming from mobile devices, and impressively almost 1 in 3 (29%) have exceeded the 20% mark. Perhaps more significant is that almost one third of retailers (27%) received 10% or more of their revenue via mobile devices.

The study also found that the main marketing priorities for the near term will be:

  1. Targeted email (84%);
  2. Upgrading onsite search (74%);
  3. Enhanced onsite merchandising (73%);
  4. Site redesigns (70%).