At the birth of online retailing several years ago, the names were almost newcomers from the Web world, led by the likes of Amazon.com.
A new nationwide survey covering a cross-section of 400 online retailers indicates the dominant presence of mainstream marketers such as Lands' End, Macy's and Wal-Mart that aren't confining themselves to Web sales, says Harry Wolhandler, a vice president of ActivMedia Research, a Peterborough, N.H., analysis firm.
"At first, the online retailers were just that. They didn't have large companies backing them. Now, the traditional retailers are going online. They're seeing it's a way to boost profits without adding a large amount of overhead. The Internet is really part of an integrated marketing strategy now," Wolhandler said.
Even Tupperware Corp. has launched an online store, offering its products in competition with its far-flung sales representatives.
As the online retailing business has broadened, the nature of Web marketing is changing too, he said, reflecting the expertise of retail powerhouses. The well-developed retail store features large-scope, stimulating content; puts a premium on serving online shoppers swiftly and skillfully; and is effectively linked to the retailers' traditional outlets, he said.
The ActivMedia survey shows that fewer than 20 percent of the online retailers offer their wares exclusively on the Web.
More than half of the companies surveyed reported a two-way synergy from Internet activity. Their Web businesses are helped by off-line marketing, and vice versa.
The leading sales channels for retailers with online stores are:
Print advertising 44%
Personal sales 42.7%
Direct mail* 32.8%
Printed catalogue 21.5%
Retail store 28.5%
Online only 19.7%
SOURCE: ActivMedia Research