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Web Strategies to Maximize Sales During Downturn

Web Strategies to Maximize Sales During Downturn

Donna Kato, San Jose Mercury News

Online retailers believe they are in a better position to weather the recession than bricks-and-mortar-only stores, and that stepping up their online marketing efforts is one way to gain on their competition.

This strategy, according to a study released this week, manifests itself in multiple ways, including:

• Shifting marketing plans from traditional advertising to social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

• Sending targeted e-mails to customers based on their stated preferences or past purchases.

• An emphasis on deep discounts and specials obtained online and used for purchases online and in person.

• Interactive features such as videos and options that give customers the ability to share items they like with friends.

“In this changed environment, it’s become increasingly more difficult to figure out a marketing strategy,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, a principal analyst for Forrester Research and lead author of the “State of Retailing Online 2009” report.

“But there is a tailwind supporting e-commerce as a way to capture market share from competitors who are waning.”

The survey of 117 unnamed e-commerce retailers – some with physical stores – was conducted by Internet analysis firm Forrester for Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation.

Forrester forecast in January that total U.S. online sales will increase 11 percent in 2009, to $156.1 billion, compared with a 13 percent gain in 2008. For 2010, growth is predicted at 13 percent.

San Francisco-based Gap, the parent company for the namesake brand and Banana Republic, Old Navy and Web-only stores Piperlime and Athleta, saw its online sales reach $1 billion in 2008, a 14 percent increase over 2007.

“The company’s e-commerce division continues to be a strong source of growth for the company,” said spokeswoman Sarah Anderson. “We’re constantly looking for innovative ways to connect with our customers and provide them with a more enticing shopping experience.”

That includes a function that allows access to all the company’s brands from each of its sites, as well as universal checkout with a flat shipping rate of $7. Since the features launched last year, traffic and sales orders have increased 8 percent each, Anderson said.

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