Still waiting to see if this internet thing catches on? No, I didn’t think so. Obviously, the retail landscape has changed significantly in the last decade, with online purchasing continuing to grab market share and many small businesses tapping into eCommerce for growth. Amazon’s recent financial results announcing first quarter growth of 43 percent only reinforces shopper preferences and behaviours are evolving at a rapid pace.
According to a report published by Australia Post last year (Inside Australian Online Shopping 2017), growth in online retail outperformed bricks-and-mortar by 6.9 percentage points in 2016. In-store is still notably higher in pure dollar terms however, bringing in $261 billion for the 2016 calendar year versus $18 billion in goods for online retail (this figure excludes services and ticketing).
For many start-ups today, it’s increasingly common to adopt a omni-channel approach — selling via a mix of avenues including bricks-and-mortar, a dedicated webstore and one or more of the many available marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. To stay ahead of the game you need a compelling and functional online presence, but it takes much more than a nice-looking website to attract and retain loyal purchasers and to increase your wallet share.
Your brand is everything…
One of the first thing business owners do when setting up is to create a website they believe best represents their brand. Brand is important, of course, but it is so much more than a well-designed logo or a catchy URL – and this is where some business owners will come unstuck.
Just as in-store customers can be put off by a surly sales representative, online users place a massive emphasis on the user experience — possibly even more so than in person — and they are unlikely to revisit if that initial encounter is discouraging, difficult or otherwise negative. Even worse, they’ll use every means possible to rate and review, alerting potential customers to their woes, be they real or imagined.
…and everything is your brand
Importantly, all of this relates to brand. Sure, your brand encompasses your distinct look and feel, but it is also every aspect of the interaction between your business and your customers.
If you can’t supply an order because your inventory information is inaccurate, it reflects badly on your brand. If you can’t give an accurate shipping estimate because you don’t have a handle on fulfilment, it reflects badly on your brand. If your return and exchange process is unwieldly, or it’s hard to enter a promo code to receive a discount…you guessed it, it reflects badly on your brand.
Of course, there’s worse news — any existing issues will probably be amplified when you try to transact across multiple channels.
Why the back end matters
It’s easy to get lost in the aesthetics when setting up, making sure your website and webstore looks as good as it can, but the real action is in the back end. Mechanics may not be as sexy as a flash graphic design, but this is where the foundation for a better user experience is laid — and a better user experience leads to greater brand loyalty and increased wallet share.
Whether you’re operating across one channel or ten, you’ve probably got your hands full. There’s customer and supplier orders, inventory and stockholding, pricing, payments, shipping and labelling to consider. If you can find the time — or aren’t consumed with putting out fires — you might even try to review sales data, hoping to decipher enough to get better insights on your customers and products.
If you’re so busy managing processes that you no longer have the time to develop your customer base, it might be time for a change. Equally, if you’re considering expanding into alternate channels to broaden your reach, it’s probably worthwhile investigating a platform that provides a full end-to-end solution for ecommerce, point-of-sale, inventory and fulfilment. The earlier in the process you implement a retail management platform, the better, giving you increased opportunity to better serve your customers.
Online growth will slow, but it’s here to stay
Online purchasing is now considered in the mature phase and, while it will continue to grow year-on-year, the rate of growth will probably slow. Despite having access to international marketplaces, Australians lean heavily toward domestic purchases, which make up the majority of the nation’s online spending — about 79% of total online sales, according to the Australia Post research. It also found that customers are still inclined to visit instore to ‘try before they buy’.
This is all good news for Australian retailers, with smart business owners recognising the value in an omni-channel approach, as they look for increased opportunity to get in front of interested customers. Getting in the game is one thing but realising the efficiency gains that come from utilising a suitable retail back-end platform is the real way to outshine competitors and delight customers – one transaction at a time.
Ryan Murtagh is the founder and CEO of retail management platform, Neto. Established in 2009, Ryan built the business based on the market’s need for a retail management platform that provides a complete solution for eCommerce, point of sale, inventory and fulfilment. A retailer himself, Ryan understood the industry pain points and sought to provide a platform that could be applied to businesses of all sizes. Ryan is a serial entrepreneur and has owned and operated businesses since his teen years. He is an expert in online retailing, building and growing successful businesses, and meeting and exceeding the evolving shopping preferences of today’s savvy consumers. In 2017 Ryan and Neto scooped a number of accolades including being named in the Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) Top 10 Most Innovative Companies, being listed in AFR’s Fast 100 Companies, and Ryan himself being recognised as Brisbane’s Young Trailblazer of the Year.