Retailers are maximizing promotions on their Web sites, from discounts to rebates.

This story first appeared in the May 6, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The E-tailing Group, an e-commerce research firm based in Chicago, said in its Eighth Annual Merchant survey that sales and specials appear on 96 percent of retail Web sites.

Free shipping and limited-hour promotions, among other deals, are intended to trigger the buying impulse, said Lauren Freedman, president of E-tailing Group. In addition, retailers are placing more emphasis on “online outlets” — dedicated sections designed to feature all markdowns.

“Merchants are thinking of everything they can do to inspire the shopper,” she added.

The survey was conducted in the first quarter and analyzed feedback from almost 200 senior e-commerce executives. The study found that e-commerce is showing more resilience in the recession than other retail channels.

More than in previous years, however, shoppers are slower to buy, they’re limiting purchases and researching both product and price before making commitments.

About 66 percent of the respondents anticipate that 2009 e-commerce revenue will increase over 2008.

The findings come as a report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Forrester Research forecast that online sales would grow to 11 percent this year, compared with 13 percent in 2008, despite the harsh retail environment.

“Manufacturers and retailers know this [e-commerce] is a growth area, so there is pressure to do better in this channel,” Freedman said. “Since merchants are resource-challenged and budgets are tight, everything is about return-on-investment. That’s why you see so much emphasis on promotions right now — they’ve got to get the customer to buy. Consumers are holding their wallets tights, they’re waiting for that big deal.”

E-tailers with unusual and desirable merchandise, good prices, free shipping and a global reach are expected to be best positioned to survive.