Start-ups urged to learn from retail giants’ online mistakes

Start-ups can learn from the mistakes of traditional retailers that have failed to establish an effective online presence, according to an industry expert.


Karson Stimson, founder of internet retailing agency WeAreDigital, says Australian retailers have largely been left behind in the digital age and are only just starting to catch up.


“We are starting to see some more traditional retailers such as JB HiFi, Bing Lee, Dick Smith, Big W and Woolworths establishing a strong online retail presence,” Stimson says.

“In addition, we are starting to see more and more local pure digital players emerge as serious purchase considerations for consumers, plus first-rate retailers and manufacturers popping up as online retailers [such as] Nike, Ralph Lauren, Quiksilver [and] Rip Curl.”


However, not all retailers are eager to head online, with a group of 21 major Australian retailers – including Harvey Norman, Myer and David Jones – launching a campaign for the government to remove the $1,000 GST-free threshold for goods bought online.


Stimson says it’s critical for companies to get an effective online presence early on. His tips are:


1. Think of your online presence as more than just a website. You are about to open your most profitable store.

    2. Form a project team, write a detailed brief, compile a financial feasibility study, set clear KPIs, a timeline, milestones, and define your success metrics.

      3. Pick the right partner who understands your space, who has online retail experience and who can cater to your website build and ongoing support requirements.

        4. Make rational product decisions. Do you want to put everything online, an exclusive “online only” offering or a single product?

            5. Be ready for your customer. Make sure you’ve taken the time to get your product information consumer-ready. For example, does a returning customer really want to be referred to as an “existing user”?

              6. Plan infrastructure, technology and operations. If you’re integrating with your POS or stock system, make sure the information within the system is web-ready. Ensure your supply chain, logistics and IT teams are involved early in the process.


              7. Remember that online is like any other business in that it will require ongoing resources, constant updating, and refreshes every season. Work out what you want to do internally versus outsourcing.

                8. Strike the right blend and balance of content and commerce. This will change brand by brand or business by business.

                  9. Overcome your fears such as, ‘My customers won’t shop online’ or ‘It’s too costly’.

                    10.  You can’t place enough emphasis on analytics and understanding customer behaviour. Identify insights and constantly improve the user experience, conversion rates and average order value to improve your return on investment.


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