Lyn Prowse-Bishop
Lyn Prowse-Bishop

Online the new frontier

IT seems that there is growing evidence retailers who are slow to go online could be making a costly mistake as shoppers head to overseas websites for greater choice and convenience.

A new study by Forrester Research has shown some 56% of Australians buy something online every month. And some of these overseas retailers are saying Australia is now their biggest market outside their home country - to the point where they are beginning to launch Australian versions of their sites, and are opening return centres in Australia to save shoppers the cost of international postage on returned items.

If you're a bricks and mortar retailer without an online presence you can't afford to snooze any longer. Competition is heating up and it was reported this month well-known Asian players are launching English-language websites.

I've written before about retailers lobbying government asking for greater protection from losses they're incurring due to online shopping but this really misses the point - and a terrific opportunity.

Getting a website up and running doesn't have to be a costly affair and can be a simple ecommerce Wordpress site easily updatable. A VA can set you up within a day.

And don't overlook Facebook. Many over-25s cringe at the very word. But statistics show that nearly 70% of the people around you are part of what's become known as The Global Mall (aka Facebook), spending lots of time in there every day. Facebook management have recognised this trend and the growing potential of Facebook as a huge online shopping mall and have made some serious changes in the last few months making the site more geared towards businesses connecting and engaging with people around them - locally and more broadly.

Naturally some products are better seen and held, and people like to meet and get to know the retailer in person to discuss their purchase. But other products - even some offered by the same store - are just as easily suited to online.

Barry James of Angel Revolutions, a UK-based company specialising in the new marketing and creators of enabling technology for businesses, believes it's no longer an either/or proposition - but that bricks and mortar businesses really should have an online business running in tandem. "The tools and facilities are available and eminently affordable to use online to both build awareness and trust and get those folks through your doors - and keep them coming back", he said.

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