Digital sales gain momentum despite aging e-commerce platforms

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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A new retailer survey indicates that successful retailers are focusing on digital channel sales, but may not be staying current with their technology.

The RSR Research survey, “Retail eCommerce In Context: The Next Iteration,” indicates that that one-third of respondents obtained more than 30% of their annual revenue in 2020 from digital channel sales. This figure includes 13% who generated 13% of their annual revenue, 41-50% who received 8% of their annual revenue, and 12% who obtained more than 50% of their annual revenue from digital channel sales.

However, a leading 31% of respondents only received 0-10% of their annual revenue from digital channel sales. Another 20% obtained 11-20% and 21-30% generated 16% of their annual revenue from digital channel sales. RSR analysis found that the upward momentum in sales coming from digital channels is being driven by retailers whose sales are outperforming the average.

The least successful retailers, by way of comparison, continue to focus on brick-and-mortar stores over e-commerce.

When respondents were asked how long their current e-commerce platform has been in place, 42% reported five years or more Interestingly, the percentage was even higher for respondents whose sales are outperforming the norm: 47% of those respondents said their current solution has been in place for more than five years.

Overall, 28% of respondents have had their current e-commerce platform in place one to three years, 23% have had their e-commerce platform in place three to five years, and only 7% obtained their current e-commerce platform less than one year ago.

The survey also uncovered differences in how overperforming retailers and average/underperforming retailers responded to questions about how they view the potential of different technology-based capabilities. For example, 51% of overperformers and 24% average/underperformers said supporting new digital touchpoints would allow them to attract more customers. Forty-seven percent of overperformers and 31% of average/underperformers said improving the online checkout experience is a priority, while 43% of overperformers and 33% of average/underperformers said the ability to continuously innovate and rapidly test new customer experiences would allow them to outpace the competition.

The difference was less pronounced in the responses to whether delivering a more differentiated experience would allow a respondent to improve conversion rates (31%/27%). However, large gaps occurred in responses to whether retailers saw value in the abilities to accommodate new business requirements (49%/14%), deliver innovation at a low cost (40%/8%), measure the business impact of commerce innovation - including A/B testing (36%/12%), and rapidly make changes to digital experiences (33%/12%).

RSR Research conducted an online survey in April 2021, sponsored by Bold Commerce, and received answers from 105 qualified retail respondents.