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retail.jpgSmall and medium-sized enterprises in the UK's retail sector are expecting a busy year for e-commerce, which is likely to put pressure on their existing IT systems.

 

A survey conducted by Royal Mail found smaller companies in the country are optimistic about their prospects for the year ahead, with two-thirds of firms confident they will see an increase in sales this year - up from just over half who saw growth in 2012.

 

However, it will be highly important for businesses to have the best systems in place to ensure their operations are as efficient as possible as they grow, otherwise they could risk falling behind their rivals. In fact, seven out of ten organisations surveyed said the ecommerce environment is more competitive at present than two years ago.

 

Key reasons given for this included an increase in the number of websites selling goods online and customers becoming more price-sensitive. However, 31 per cent of firms suggested consumers are increasingly sticking to retailers they know rather than shopping around for bargains, which was put down to an increase in the use of smartphones and tablets to access online platforms.

 

As a result of this, it may be harder for businesses to attract new customers on the strength of low prices alone, so having the right management systems in place to ensure the ecommerce process flows smoothly from start to finish could be highly valuable to firms, as offering a positive customer experience is a key way to stand out from rivals.

 

Indeed, recent research by SAP suggested this is particularly important in the age of social media, as 59 per cent of people said they would share news of a great experience with a company with their followers and the negative effect is even more important, it only takes 7 negative tweets about a company for customers to think twice about spending with them.

 

Royal Mail's survey found 57 per cent of firms believe attracting new customers is their main challenge for 2013, with many planning to improve their operations to do this.

 

Nick Landon, managing director of Royal Mail Parcels, said: "Our study shows that online retailers are responding to the needs of shoppers to grow sales in an increasingly competitive marketplace."

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