Two-thirds of online businesses questioned said they were optimistic about their growth prospects for the coming year
Companies with a strong online presence are performing substantially better than the overall economy despite the current difficult consumer environment.
In a survey of more than 300 online businesses conducted for Barclays, the average business reported 11.4% compound annual growth over the past three years. During the same period the UK economy grew by just 0.2%, said the bank.
Given this strong growth, it is unsurprising that nearly two-thirds of the businesses questioned said they were optimistic about their growth prospects for the coming year. Perhaps not so obviously, 48% were positive about the UK economy in general.
Sean Duffy, managing director and head of technology, media and telecoms at Barclays, said: “Online businesses have bucked the trend over the last three years and experienced success in spite of the stagnant economic conditions. The next challenge for companies operating online is sustaining this level of growth and ensuring that they take advantage of new and rising trends. We are advising our online clients to become mobile-ready, as it’s a significant opportunity, particularly with the imminent roll out of 4G networks across the UK due to make mobile browsing easier for more and more consumers.”
But many companies do not yet appear to have a mobile strategy. The survey showed 89% of online businesses had not yet developed their website for mobile devices.
Meanwhile the continuing rise of internet shopping has helped John Lewis reach £1bn of online sales a year ahead of schedule, and the retailer has invested nearly £40m in designing a new website to help boost future growth.
Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: “With sales up over 40% for johnlewis.com in 2012, we are seeing an unprecedented pace of online growth and customers are making more demands on our website, than ever before.”
The news comes as a report from marketing group Tradedoubler suggested that footfall – the number of people entering shops – was no longer a reliable measure of retail business. It said 60% of customers used smartphones while out shopping, with three-quarters looking up information on products in the store, 70% checking for a better price elsewhere and 60% going home to buy the product on line.
Customers are increasingly seeking out loyalty and reward schemes, as well as voucher codes and coupons, said Tradedoubler.