The rise of the connected shopper is causing a change in strategic focus for retailers. According to the 2013 Research State of Retailing survey, retailers now seek to improve the customer experience and increase Web conversion and loyalty across all devices.

More than half (51 percent) of retailers surveyed said their top priority for the new year is site optimization, including checkout optimization, alternative payments, user experience, testing and product detail page enhancements.

Tablets and mobile came in second on the survey, with 43 percent of retailers noting them as part of their top three priorities for 2013. These companies plan to invest in new or improved mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites, analytics, and traffic and conversion growth. Among other customer experience investments this year, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of retailers surveyed plan to prioritize site redesign, including overhauling the "look and feel" and implementing responsive design changes.

"Retailers have responded to rapidly evolving customer use of mobile devices, dedicating much of the past 12 to 18 months to developing and testing rich mobile offerings for both customers and store associates," said Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. "While direct mobile commerce is still small, mobile services are now an established and significant part of the shopping experience. Retailers this year are smartly investing to create a holistic customer experience across stores, desktop and mobile to improve conversion rates, grow crucial repeat customer business, and even capture their share of customer demand from international markets."

Overall, online retail remains healthy: 58 percent of those surveyed said their conversion rates in 2012 grew over 2011, and many companies said their cart abandonment rate was either stable or down compared to 2011. And while respondents are split regarding mobile's impact on conversion rates, the study shows a net positive impact: 36 percent of retailers surveyed say that mobile sales and traffic have helped their company's overall Web conversion rate, while 29 percent have felt a negative impact.

"Despite continued growth in mobile commerce, it will be important for retailers in 2013 to pause and understand the opportunities, distractions and implications of mobile within the e-commerce landscape," said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "But it's promising to see that even though there is market pressure to invest in everything from mobile and free shipping to international growth, retailers have improved key metrics while keeping customer service and fulfillment costs in check."

Read more about multichannel retail.

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