Time for traditional retailers to embrace the online ‘enemy’

Time for traditional retailers to embrace the online ‘enemy’

Wow. The last time I got a response to anything like last week’s rebuttal of the retail heavyweight’s campaign to lower the GST threshold on imports below $1000 was when I questioned the place of community-driven Open Source programming in a commercial world.

Luckily most supported my position, but to some retailers I’m now a retail and mogul basher as well as a developer basher!

Well, if you call someone who has spent countless time and money on encouraging and educating retailers to understand and embrace the online world often to only a handful of willing readers or attendees, well, yes. I must be a retail basher.

Then on this evening’s broadcast news I heard yet another reference to ‘responding to the online threat’. Again I could only shake my head at the cynicism of this attitude.

On behalf of the digital industry, I need to make this as clear as my editor will allow me to.

Digital is not a threat to Australian retailing.  Quite the opposite.  It is a low-cost channel to a massive and growing online market.

Honestly, if I was a retailer, I would be beside myself with the opportunity that the online world offers.

No more being restricted to a single, crowded territory. No more paying staff overtime to attend your store after hours. No more stocking product if you don’t want to. In fact, your range is pretty much limited only by your imagination. And literally a global market at your fingertips.

And with entry costs a mere fraction of those to do the same in the physical world. And the ability to fully leverage a physical store’s assets to underpin online efforts etc, etc.

What’s not to love?

How would you respond?

If I was a retailer I would be reading every online retailing book, subscribing to every website, attending every workshop and going to every course I could to learn more about this genuine communications revolution.

Instead, many of them spend their time moaning to their fellow store-owners to rally the government to stop a completely inconsequential GST impost.

Need I reprise the time not that long ago when I visited 100 local retailers to personally invite them to a local and affordable workshop I was running on the fundamentals of selling online?

Of those 100, not one bothered to take up my invitation to find out a little more about this ‘threat to their livelihood’.

A retailer that gets it

But thankfully I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for the online retailing opportunity. At least one Aussie retailer is grabbing the online bull by the horns.

For some time now, my own family have made it common practice around gift giving occasions to arrange vouchers to a Peter’s of Kensington, Sydney (most of us are in Melbourne) – a traditional gift, homewares and now electronics retailer who has been selling online for some time now.

My family rave about the online store’s range, prices, delivery times and convenience. I couldn’t tell you the number of vouchers to the store our family has purchased but it must be into double figures.

Replicating in-store service online

And according to their website, Peter’s are equally enamoured about their new found online customers:

“For decades, Peter’s of Kensington remained Sydney’s best-kept secret. Just over 10 years ago, all that changed, with the launch of our website. These days, thousands of people all over Australia visit our famous big pink building in Kensington without even leaving their homes.”

This is exactly the attitude all traditional retailers need to take to the online world if they not only want to survive, but realise an unprecedented opportunity.

If I was a retail industry leader, I would be grabbing the likes of Peter’s of Kensington by the scruff of the neck and touring them across the country to let traditional retailers know just what a wonderful opportunity they are missing out on – if they were prepared to divulge it to would-be competitors.

So to any retailers who have read this far, I urge you to see the online world as what it is – an unprecedented opportunity to grow your business in exciting new ways instead of the deliverer of doom some of your leaders insist on portraying it as.

Your future may depend on it.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au

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