Modern retailers can no longer ignore the presence of online channels and remain sustainable. Whether they decide that an online presence is a viable part of their business model or not, every retailer needs to understand the implications of online retailing for their business.
Identifying the advantages and disadvantages of e-business
Some retailers set up their websites as separate entities lacking integration with key systems not only in technology but, more importantly, in providing a consistent core value. A transaction-capable website is not a competitive advantage. The next step is for retailers to identify, strengthen and communicate their core value to their customers online.
Ecommerce business is open 24 hours a day, every day. Time and distance are no longer a problem, you can sell to your customers from anywhere in the world, whatever time zone they live in. This is another one of the major advantages of e-commerce; your e-business doesn’t need to close at the end of the day.
The technology can be alien to someone new to ecommerce therefore all the normal fears and self doubts of engaging in something new and unknown apply. Likewise the lack of skill and experience combined with insufficient planning can lead to poor first time execution which may not only damage the business but also disenchant the owner.
However the single biggest disadvantage of ecommerce is the loss of the personal touch. That is, the friendly human interaction that you have with the storeowner or team, that keeps you going back time and time again.
Common online mistakes to avoid include:
- Difficult to navigate
- Poor delivery of products
- Inconsistent customer service levels
- Underestimating the integration needed
- Set up as separate entities
- Lacked integration with key systems
- Did not align to the core strategic offering of the business
- Transactional website is in itself not a competitive advantage
- Need to develop and promote core value proposition online
Understanding the threats and opportunities for retailers created by e-business
With the business environment being made more dynamic by the emergence of e-business, the main threats and opportunities for retailers surround the following issues:
- Changing customer expectations and purchasing behaviour;
- Opportunities to reduce costs;
- Opportunities to access new markets;
- The possibility of suppliers bypassing retailers and marketing direct to end-consumers
A successful response to the threats and opportunities of e-commerce is built upon an effective plan and approach, as represented in your business model, and upon organising staff, products, processes and technologies to fulfil and extend that model. Success in e-business is about picking the “right” business model. It is also worth regarding your business model as a work in progress rather than something set in stone. As your business undertakes more e-business activities, you will probably find yourself developing a clearer understanding of what works for your business and your customers. Success in e-business is more likely to come from this gradual collection of insights that elaborate and extend your business model, than from a day-one revelation.
In the more dynamic business environment that the internet has fuelled, the challenges and opportunities that e-commerce brings to retailers also change. The emphasis therefore must not be on having ‘an answer’, but continuing to observe, experiment, and respond to emerging opportunities and threats. In doing this, the dominant rule of thumb should be that common business sense still applies.
Retailers no longer hold the power
One of the first things to realise when embracing omni-channel retailing is that you must have a customer focus approach to running your business:
- Consumers choose the channel of engagement
- And they expect a seamless experience through all channels
- So retailers must make the move from ‘multi-channel’ to ‘omni-channel’
- Consumers are influenced by their peers, not by the retailer
- FMCG (Fast moving consumer goods) and CPG (Consumer packaged goods) players looking to have a direct to consumer play to drive insight and sales
- Mobile is THE game changer
- Social Media is a service and engagement driver
- Internationalisation is all the rage…but localisation is required
- The gap between buying offline and online continues to narrow
Therefore the use of digital technology to market to potential customers is significant and for a sales driven retailer a powerful tool to increase revenue.
Looking to learn the fundamentals of E-business? The ARA Retail Institute provides leading accredited training options including the Diploma of Retail Management (Multichannel).
Find more information about the services provided by The ARA Retail Institute here.