New York--It has been talked about a lot, but the importance of selling across multiple platforms was again emphasized in a recent study from the National Retail Federation and Forrester.

Of the companies surveyed for the annual “State of Retailing Online” study, 32 percent were online-only sellers, while 57 percent were omnichannel retailers, some of whom sell both in physical retail locations and online.

Of the group that operates brick-and-mortar stores, 43 percent said they expect an increase in number of stores by the end of 2018, with only 16 percent anticipating a net reduction.

Additionally, 24 percent said they would hold a pop-up store in the coming year and 12 percent said they would be opening back-end locations like warehouses or distribution centers.

Forty-two percent of retailers said that their top customer-facing priority is delivering online orders faster, which is one reason that opening more physical locations is a priority. Twenty-one percent said their top customer-facing priority right now is the buy online, pick up in-store experience, and 15 percent said shipping from stores was their biggest concern.

Other top priorities for retailers included personalizing the shopping experience, using technology to help store associates assist customers and improving the in-store experience.

When it comes to online sales, retailers said they’re on the upswing, with 70 percent polled noting that online conversion rates had increased in the past year, 62 percent saying that repeat online sales increased and 57 percent saying the average order amount had increased.

Though online sales still come from about twice as many desktop computers as mobile phones, the NRF and Forrester noted that mobile sales are growing at a faster rate, 36 percent versus 8 percent for desktops.

Additionally, 89 percent of retailers said they plan to increase spending in mobile opportunities.

“This report shows more than ever that retail is retail regardless of where a sale is made or how the product is delivered,” said Mark Mathews, NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis. 

“Products ordered online are increasingly picked up in-store or shipped from a nearby store, and digital technology being used at bricks-and-mortar locations lets retailers help customers find what they want or make the sale even if the product is out of stock. Traditional retailers have seen the opportunities of online selling for years now, and those selling online increasingly see that stores are part of the key to success.”

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