How to compete in the online retail space

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Oxford Circus in London is littered with some of the biggest brands in the world and some of the most successful and recognisable retail chain stores. On any given day, you will find hundreds of thousands of eager shoppers darting in and out of stores to purchase the latest fashion or accessory.

Head online, and UK Google search results for ‘online shopping’ will provide you with what is virtually a mirror of this high street, on screen. Hundreds of retail giants and major brands, laid out in front of you, global proximity to them forgotten and droves of people hidden behind efficient and speedy site search options.

In Australia, according to ACMA, 30% of online shoppers use overseas sites. And with the vast majority of major international brands and stores having an efficient online presence, providing simple return and refund policies and timely mail outs of products, why wouldn’t they? After all, when the same search on Australian Google produces many of the same European brands in the top results, they’re just going to the most obvious source for shopping options.

Australian retailers have fallen behind dramatically when it comes to offering an eCommerce option to consumers. And until businesses take their focus from traditional sales to the online market, the industry will continue to suffer and decline, losing the battle to more advanced overseas brands.

The question is, why are we lagging so far behind?

A recent eCommerce report shows that online sales in Australia are expected to grow by 10 billion dollars in 2013. Combined with the fact that half of our population over the age of 15 is already shopping online, this significant figure shows us that the online challenge to Australian retailers isn’t consumers — they are online and ready to buy.

What the real challenge is, according to results, is retailers themselves. It is a reluctance to move from tried and tested traditional shopping approaches to what some see as the risky online world.

This research shows that approximately half of Australian retailers have no online presence at all — and that’s not even entering into eCommerce presence — and for those who do, it is still relatively new. So why are they seemingly uninterested in expanding their potential audience, increasing their sales and taking their business into the future?

Studies show there are four main reasons:

  • The traditional mindset of many Australian businesses means they are not prepared to try something new over something that has worked in the past.
  • There may be some misconception about the cost related to going online, however the investment in the technology and infrastructure can seem overwhelming.
  • The move into online retail was simply too fast for them and they couldn’t keep up.
  • A lack of internal knowledge about the online space, despite Executive approval to move into it, has resulted in little action.

With 94% of the Australian population now having access to the internet and 79% heading online every day, retailers who don’t provide an eCommerce option are more than likely to be left behind. It may seem daunting, but without this move, retail stores in Australia will become a distant second option to eager shoppers looking for the best deal, the best product and the best service.

Working with retail clients and creating eCommerce sites on a daily basis, our experts at Platform understand the reluctance of many Aussie retailers to dive into the online marketplace. But we also understand how important it is that you adapt — and do it quickly. To get you started, here are some top tips from our team:

  • Assess your needs. While the move to online is important, there are some rare businesses it just may not be suitable for. Assess your business needs and those of your clients and customers, before taking the plunge, and determine if eCommerce is really for you.
  • Develop your digital strategy. Like your traditional communications strategy, this needs to integrate a number of key channels and media to achieve the best result. Two areas not to forget, include:
  1. Social media strategy. Australians have the highest per capita adoption of Facebook in the world, yet only 39% of Australian retailers use social media as part of their marketing mix, and a majority don’t foresee adopting it over the next 12 months. Social media can help build your brand, increase credibility and give consumers the confidence to shop with you — don’t overlook it.
  2. Go mobile, think mCommerce. Half of Australians own a smart phone and use it to access the internet regularly. They shop and they research your products using their phone. Don’t miss out on valuable clients by ignoring the needs of mobile device users.
  • Collect data. Only 32% of Australian retailers have a CRM or customer database, and of those, many are capturing data that won’t help them. Useful data can be integrated into your website to make your customers’ online experience simpler and more enjoyable, also aiding in tactics like cross-selling and up-selling. Start collecting useful data now!
  • Invest in infrastructure. The right technology can make all the difference. Once you know what you want to offer, talk to experts about what you need so your online presence is set up correctly from day one.
  • Prioritise marketing. As part of your digital strategy, you will need an integrated marketing strategy. Carefully assess what you’re hoping to achieve in both your traditional and online spaces, and take a multi-channel approach to messaging and making contact with your customers. The use of digital channels and tools like social media, video and SEO will form an integral part of your new approach to communicating your product and service.

If you haven’t already, 2013 is the year to take your business online. As we dive deeper into a digital future, more and more products and services are going to be expected at the click of a button — and if yours isn’t one of them, you will be left behind.

At Platform, we specialise in web development and implementation, and comprehensive digital strategy. For more information about taking your business online, please contact Platform on (02) 9911 7788.

Better Online Experiences™