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Online Sales of Growing Importance to Multi-Channel Businesses Epsilon Targeting

Sales slide in 2008, but online portion expands

The new Epsilon Targeting Multichannel Trend Report finds that even as overall sales slid, online sales continued to make up a growing piece of the business for multi-channel companies. The report, which draws on purchasing information from the company's Abacus Cooperative database of multi-channel companies, offers insight about what trends are affecting the industry.

It was little surprise that the impact of the recession was felt across all channels, including retail, online, call center and mail order, with an across-the-board decline of 3 percent. This was attributed to fewer households actively making purchases, as well as lower frequency of purchase and lower average sales.

At the same time, the report finds that growth continues in the online sales channel, with that segment growing 30 percent in the last four years and 8 percent in 2008 alone. The report also finds the average dollar per online transaction has steadily increased over the last four years. Online sales also took up an increasingly large proportion of multi-channel businesses sales, moving from 30.3 percent of sales in 2005 to 39.4 percent in 2008.
Retail also saw an increase, moving from 30.5 percent in 2005 to 33.3 percent in 2008.

It was call center and mail order sales that lost significance during this period as it went from the channel bringing in the most sales, to the one bringing in the least, going from 39.2 percent of sales in 2005 to only 27.3 percent in 2008.

Among the report's other findings were that those shoppers who shop at several channels, instead of only online or only at retail, represent 67 percent of total repeat buyers with the highest spend and transactions per household. While they spend less on average for individual purchases, they spend more per household overall. Looking just at business-to-business transactions, multichannel buyers spend $686 per contact.

As far as the merchandise categories that had the most growth and decline among Abacus Cooperative members, meats and seafood took the biggest hit, with a drop of 30 percent, while mid-ticket gifts and merchandise was down 29 percent. Apparel categories had some significant increases, with high-ticket male and female apparel rising 19 percent, and male and female shoes up 14 percent.

The trend report makes several recommendations in reference to the data. This includes gains companies can make through direct mailing because there is "less competition in the mailbox" as other companies pull back their direct mail budgets. But it gives the caveat that these efforts must be targeted to those households most likely to respond, which can be gathered through surveys. The paper also recommends seeking out vendors that can provide multiple services, cutting costs by bundling services and pricing.