Having an online presence is not enough, delivering up-to-date pricing and stock levels is the key, says Richard Wood

The online retailing market is buoyant, with some anecdotal reports suggesting average household spending has reached almost £1,000 per year online, though many retailers could miss a trick this Christmas by failing to maximise how visible their products are online.

The market is flooded with price comparison and product listing sites but many customers are finding that increasing numbers of the listings don't have the correct price or stock availability, which can be damaging for the brand when they fail to deliver what the customer is expecting. Sites like Amazon also have a very strict policy on listings, so retailers could be putting themselves in a very vulnerable position if their product feeds aren't kept right up to date.

The problem I often find is that many retailers had the information available to update their product feeds, but simply didn't have the 'thing' that could feed this information out to where it needed to go.

Setting up and maintaining listings on product comparison sites will get products in front of online shoppers quickly and effectively. Let me illustrate with an example: toner cartridge supplier Ink Toner UK. As in the food and drink retail industry, Ink Toner UK operates in a competitive market with wafer-thin margins.

Using an automated product display solution (in this case Feed Manager), the company was able to make subtle but significant changes to how products were listed online and, most importantly, manage any price changes instantly.

As a result, Ink Toner UK now generates up to 75% of its overall business turnover online. Founder Steve Hari said: "We're now making a lot more money from our site as a direct result of this work."

Logan Tod's Annual Online Shopping Index has revealed that the public intend to do 23% more shopping online in the run-up to Christmas 2010 when stock availability will be a critical issue for retailers. An outsourced solution will ensure retailers can get their listing processes in order now, so their online product display matches the real picture in the warehouse and customers are not left disappointed.

Richard Wood is MD of web marketing company Gillissa.