In this opinion piece, Michael Jenkins, CEO of Shout! Web Strategy, says online is now just as important as bricks and mortar for retailers, however, the two should still be treated as separate beasts…
Back in the 80s, 90s and even the early 2000’s an article like this wouldn’t have existed. Fast forward to 2016 and many, if not most, businesses have an online shop front – this is increasingly important given Australians spent roughly $19.2 billion on online retail in the 12 months to February 2016 (source: NAB).
Take the one-stop baby shop, Baby Bunting. Traditionally focused on their in-store customer experience, the brand recently implemented a powerful new digital strategy. The online store has seen significant growth now competing for the number one position against the 36 national network of bricks and mortar stores.
As the world becomes more comfortable with the security and timeliness of online shopping, the growth opportunity for traditionally physical stores to move online is enormous. If fact, some of the world’s largest online stores – Walmart and Apple for example – have spawn from bricks and mortar to virtual profit-making monsters.
Accessibility and convenience: The beauty of having an online presence is that your customers can access you 24:7 and sales can be made while staff are sleeping! In the case of Baby Bunting this works perfectly. Parents are busy, after hours is often the only time they can ‘shop’. In fact, the Baby Bunting site sees its most traffic between 8-9pm, once parents have put the kids to bed for the night and can focus on ‘shopping’ without having the kids in tow.
Customer insight: This is a big one. Unlike physical stores, online stores provide retailers with detailed insights into shopping habits and purchase behaviours. This provides direct marketing opportunities and opens up areas like remarketing which further increases online presence.
Expanded reach: Your online store supplements your bricks and mortar perfectly, reaching regions where you may not have a physical presence.
Cost: Once your set up costs are out of the way, the addition of an online store is a cost effective one – no expensive rents, less staff and generally limited maintenance.
The key to online success, like any other retail offering, is more than just selling a product. It’s about building trust, keeping track of competitors, listening to and responding to your audience, and streamlining the buying experience.
Whilst online commerce is not ‘new’, the way consumers engages online is changing rapidly. In this day and age any consumer focused organisation has transformed their digital business or is in the process of doing so. Whilst no small undertaking: the opportunity is not to be missed.