Around this time last year, a flurry of forecasts appeared predicting a bumper season for online shopping.
They turned out to be pretty accurate. E-commerce revenues gave a fillip to seasonal earnings, to the point where many companies weren't geared up to handle demand.
But uncertainty is the determining factor this year, so it will be tricky to decide how much of the remaining annual marketing budget to spend on attracting people to your site, especially when forecasts are giving out conflicting messages.
For example, research company Odyssey predicts that consumers are less likely to shop online this year than last. Jupiter Media Matrix, however, says that online retail and travel sales will reach more than [pounds sterling]8bn in the run-up to Christmas, an 11% increase on last year.
So what's the answer? It's to keep your head and be smarter when it comes to online activity. Take note of a report from consultancy Accenture. It has found that, although 60% of European companies said they would be increasing e-commerce spending by 15% over the next year, their primary focus is on moving from customer acquisition to deepening customer relationships through delivery of more tailored services.
This is why a lot more attention is being given to the potential of search engines. These are the web's unsung heroes, the first stop for most surfers. The problem is that your web site is not guaranteed to appear in the all-important first ten listings. After all, the average search engine can connect you to more than 500 million pages.
But marketers currently rate search engines very low as a marketing tool. Just under half of the marketers surveyed by CyberAtlas spend less than 0. …