European retailers set to embrace more online channels, finds study

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European retailers plan to increase the number of online channels they sell through as the industry looks to maximise revenues in an increasingly competitive economy.

That’s one of the key findings of research, conducted by e-commerce specialist ChannelAdvisor at the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst 2011 conference in London.

ChannelAdvisor surveyed a cross section of medium and large retailers and found, even though over half of respondents are already present on more than five online channels, a 87% are looking to increase the number of online channels they sell through within the next three years.

The channel most likely to benefit from retailers’ emphasis on new channels is Amazon, which was identified by one in four respondents as the channel with the most potential to increase sales, putting the site ahead of rival eBay, paid search marketing channels such as Google, comparison shopping sites, social networks and even brands’ own e-commerce sites.

Eighty-five percent of retailers surveyed currently sell through more than one channel online, with the majority (54%) operating in more than five separate sales channels.

Social commerce is also increasingly prominent on retailers’ agendas; the survey revealed that 40% of retailers are active on Facebook and 32% active on Twitter. Already, one in five retailers (21%) see social networking as a sales channel in its own right, and the majority is currently using Facebook as a tool for marketing (64%) and community engagement (32%).

James Scott, managing director, EMEA for ChannelAdvisor, said: “Channels such as Amazon, eBay, Google and, increasingly, Facebook represent a fantastic opportunity for retailers to take their products and services to a whole new audience. E-commerce is currently growing at 19% year-on-year across Europe, at the same time as it is becoming increasingly complex, sophisticated and competitive.

“It is vital retailers can start to generate sales from any new platform they engage on quickly and cost-effectively, so it’s no surprise to see they are primarily focusing on established and proven channels to make the most of the most of this rapidly expanding market.

“Yet, at the same time, retailers need to keep a very close eye on the more revolutionary models now being explored in social commerce. These platforms have huge potential and those businesses that can crack social commerce will have a chance to put themselves way ahead of the competition, which explains the uptake of channels such as Facebook and Twitter.”