Petaluma, Calif.

In today’s economy, acquiring highly qualified customers while increasing the amount of products and services they purchase is of critical importance. By making small, manageable improvements, online merchants can increase the lifetime value of each customer, drive repeat purchases and create stronger customer loyalty.

After a challenging holiday season, merchants face seemingly paradoxical imperatives in 2009: Continue e-commerce growth while holding the line on expenses. Now more than ever, merchants must invest wisely to stay competitive, and continue to improve and innovate online.

It’s February. Winter still has us in its grip and apparently, so does the economic downturn. Fortunately, there are specific things online retailers can do to mitigate its effects. The other good news is that growth in the online channel still outpaces brick-and-mortar.

As e-commerce continues to be the bright spot in an otherwise clouded retail landscape, successful multichannel merchants will take advantage of consumers looking to shop more online due to the convenience, cost savings in gas and the opportunity to deal-hunt this holiday season. By implementing the following five proven tactics, you will be able to turn browsers into buyers, increase the amount shoppers spend and convert first-time shoppers into long-term, brand-loyal customers.

To combat the triple challenge of economic uncertainty, slowing market gains and seasonal swings, e-commerce merchants must shift focus to a previously neglected stage of the sales process: customer retention. Currently, online retailers allocate 53 percent of their marketing budgets to online customer acquisition and 21 percent of marketing dollars to online customer retention, according to Shop.org's State of Online Retailing Study for 2008. By building a base of loyal customers, merchants can smooth their averages by driving repeat business over time.

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