Retail CFOs to emphasize online, mobile retail in 2013, study finds

CHICAGO — Retail executives are moderating their expectations for 2013 following uneven sales in December and January, according to a new survey of CFOs by professional services firm BDO USA.

The survey of 100 CFOs at retailers across the country found, however, that reduced economic concerns had led many to focus on ways to adapt to the rise of online shopping. As a result, retailers are beginning to integrate online sales into their sales-accounting practices to develop a more accurate picture of their performance, and 66% said they include online sales in their comps as e-commerce began accounting for a larger portion of sales overall. Nearly three-quarters expect e-commerce sales to increase by 6.9% this year.

The report found that consumers can also expect to see more engagement in mobile channels, with 60% planning to maintain mobile investment this year and 38% planning to increase it. They're also looking for ways to integrate mobile and create an omni-channel shopping experience, ranging from installing mobile technologies like GPS and similar apps in their stores to developing mobile shopping apps for the growing numbers of smartphones and tablets on the market.

Digital promotions are also growing in importance, and executives are analyzing holiday strategies to see which ones work best, the survey found. One-third of CFOs cited email and social media promotions as a top strategy in 2012, and 16% cite free shipping. With consumers focused on deals, promotional discounting remains a stalwart of holiday strategy, with 29% of CFOs indicating that it was the most successful strategy last year. When asked about successful tactics, 41% cited extended store tactics, while 22% cited Thanksgiving weekend promotions.