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Web will extend its reach

New technology will expand the opportunities for online retail in 2010, but etailers mustn’t forget the basics

Online retailers had a busy year in 2009, with a number of major sites launched or relaunched throughout the year, including those from the likes of premium womenswear chain Whistles, tesco“>Tesco’s clothing site and designer Alexander McQueen.

Etail has also got much more sophisticated, with etailers and retailers such as My-Wardrobe and Oasis“>Oasis introducing innovations such as catwalk videos and the first fashion retail iPhone app. So what’s in store for 2010?

The majority of commentators agree that 2010 will be tough in general for the fashion sector. But for online, many see the year as more positive.

Pontus Kristiansson, chief executive and co-founder of behavioural merchandising company Avail Intelligence, says the outlook for etailers this year is positive. “We’ve already seen a notable increase in average order values during Q4 and expect this will continue in 2010,” he explains. “The greater number of consumers now shopping online coupled with improvements to both conversion rates and average order values will result in very positive growth rates for online retail in 2010.”

Continued growth

Rosie Atallah, marketing manager at ecommerce solutions provider Docdata, agrees that online will continue to grow next year. She says there has been a notable increase in fashion ecommerce site-building enquiries over the past couple of months “following a particularly frozen year”. And she points out that with some of the major fashion retailers such as H&M and zara“>Zara finally announcing plans to launch transactional sites in the UK, “the feeling is that next year will continue to see online fashion sales growth recover quicker than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts due to etailer’s ability to adapt effectively to changing consumer demands, along with restored shopper confidence”.

The impact of using social media in marketing strategies was a big talking point in 2009, and looks set to develop further in 2010. Nadia Castellani, ecommerce manager at value retailer Select, says: “Social networking will be an important marketing tool for us in 2010 to engage and connect with our customers.”

Both Facebook and Twitter are now regularly used by fashion retailers and are a great way to interact with customers, but traditional marketing tools can still be beneficial. Nick Gold, UK managing director of e-marketing company Emailvision says: “Getting a better return on marketing spend will be critical. You need to be sending personalised content that inspires customers and drives traffic without resorting to discounts.”

2010 also looks set to be the year when imagery and rich content make an even greater impact across the etail arena. Fashion retailers are looking to stand out in what has fast become an extremely busy and competitive market. Sarah Curran, founder of pure-play etailer My-Wardrobe, agrees: “Video content and live streaming are likely to have an even bigger focus in 2010. Last season, burberry“>Burberry and Twenty8Twelve streamed their catwalk shows live online and provided bloggers with their own dedicated areas to file their reports.”

Basic instinct

However, Kristine Kirby, home shopping director at lifestyle chain Fat Face, points out that it’s still about getting the basics right. She says UK customers are becoming more demanding where service is concerned, and advises retailers to keep this as their priority and work to enhance their customer service. “Improved or enhanced shipping offerings, tracking of parcels, more free returns, call centre support, customer reviews - anything that improves the information available to the customer and makes it easier for them to receive product and return it.”

So whether it’s style, service or innovation, 2010 looks certain to be another exciting and innovative year for etail.

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