After more than a decade of e-tailing experience, I conclude that Australian retailers should increase their online presence.
We made our first online sale of Australian gifts featuring Aboriginal art at Australia Gift Shop (now at www.australiagift.net ) in August, 2000. It was then within the PlanetPilgrim.com website.
In the decade since then, it has been impossible not to realise that there are serious organisational and financial advantages to operating an online shop compared with a bricks-and-mortar storefront. This is applicable to online retail shops in general, regardless of whether or not you are an online gift shop, a supplier of Aboriginal art corporate gifts or Australian gifts and Aussie souvenirs.
Even though we are an online store, it has also become patently obvious to us that offline and online marketing work very well together and online marketing can certainly improve the effectiveness of offline marketing, and vice versa.
A real-world and a virtual presence for the one retail business can work well to piggyback each another in the promotion, marketing and customer relations for the business.
If social media is also employed in the marketing mix, the interaction has great potential for helping both sides of the business - both offline and online sales.
Any existing bricks-and-mortar retailer can only gain from thoughtfully implementing an online strategy to work in conjunction with their offline sales. They should not expect to make substantial online sales in the short to medium term.
Their initial online presence should be viewed as a longer-term strategy to help market their brand, listen to their customers and prospective clients, as well as generating market interest through sharing relevant content, competitions and promotions of time-limited specials and discounts.
Any retailer who is in the throes of making a decision about initiating or increasing their online presence, should carefully read this list of advantages to operating an online shop compared with a bricks-and-mortar storefront.
1. Site hosting and domain name registration are extremely inexpensive compared with rental or lease of business premises in a strip or mall shopping precinct.
2. Open to accept purchases 24/7.
3. Employees do not have to be paid overtime while sales are being made at night/weekends/public holidays.
4. Flexible working hours.
5. Need for commuting and rush-hour stress can be eliminated.
6. Market breadth is hugely expanded because the tyranny of distance is eliminated.
7. Faster and more flexible customer relations and marketing communications can be facilitated.