Insights

Editorial: Fields of Green

Any retailers who think they don’t need an e-commerce channel are, at best, missing an enormous opportunity or, at worst, doomed to failure. Australian retailers are at a significant tipping point – will they fall or fly?

When, not if.

Any retailers who think they don’t need an e-commerce channel are, at best, missing an enormous opportunity or, at worst, doomed to failure. From iconic national retailers to local butcher shops, the opportunities online are infinite. If you’re reading this, I’m most likely preaching to the converted, but there are far too many retailers not taking advantage of the online environment. Affordable tools enabling richer customer experiences, efficient operational platforms, advanced security, faster shipping, cross-channel integration and more means past objections to e-commerce investment are redundant.

We’re at a significant tipping point in retail. The online upside is enormous – Forrester Research suggests online spending in Australia is expected to grow to a giant $32 billion by 2012, with further evidence to suggest that this could just be the beginning. Figures from IBISWorld show that online sales may eventually reach $75 billion as more retailers increase the efficiency and reliability of their online channels.

That’s the good news.

The bad news? At least 25% of Australian consumer dollars (many, many billions!)  will be spent on overseas-based sites this year, and that percentage is expected to grow.

Why? Because whether we like it or not, Australia is well behind most of the Western world when it comes to e-commerce. Many of our major national retailers are complacent, incapable of or unwilling to lead by example, watching their market share being gobbled up by overseas competitors able to offer excellent customer experiences, wide product ranges and super-efficient door-to-door shipping.

Having been a passionate observer of e-commerce trends in recent years, it amazes me so may retailers remain ignorant of the obvious opportunities online, and more puzzling, seem oblivious to the serious threats posed by international competition. Protections are required, and urgently, but nobody appears to be doing anything about it. The only bleating I’ve heard lately from retail representative bodies is an advertising campaign aimed at quashing a bill for cigarette packaging to be unmarked. Get real!

Seriously, there are far greater concerns in e-commerce. There’s a clear imperative to bring Australian online retail up to speed with competitors in the US, UK and Asia. The geographical barriers that once afforded Australia protection are no longer relevant, and if we’re to keep locals shopping in Australia, the same quality or better experience needs to be delivered.

The next concern is the e-commerce talent shortage. As editor of Power Retail and content manager for the Online Retailer Conference, I’m having regular discussions with retailers who lament the struggles of finding quality, experienced e-commerce professionals. Upskilling Australia’s e-commerce workforce is an absolute must if the goal of parity standards with international competitors is to be achieved.

It’s not all gloom and doom, in fact it’s quite the opposite for those who want to lead. As program director for the inaugural Online Retail Industry Awards, I had a front row seat to the work of some incredibly innovative online and multichannel retailers. Daily I hear of a new initiative from a start-up entrepreneur or an established bricks and mortar retailer getting serious about e-commerce.

It’s exciting. The winds of change are blowing across luscious green fields for online and multichannel retailers. The internet is an amazing leveller – loungeroom start-ups have an opportunity to challenge major brands. Major brands have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and corner untapped markets. This site is about providing resources and inspiration for those who do want to profit from the booming e-commerce market and establish competitive advantage.There’s fertile ground aplenty for those who choose to move. The time for that is right now.

For those who don’t see the potential in e-commerce and want to wait a few more years, I’m glad I don’t have shares in your business. Make when soon.

Grant Arnott

Article by

Grant Arnott is publisher of Power Retail. Other hats include Co-Founder of Click Frenzy, Global Head of The Media Pad, and adoptive father of a fast-growing Golden Retriever. Grant has a specialist business publishing background spanning more than a decade, and contributes regularly to a multitude of print and digital business media. Follow Grant on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him through LinkedIn

One Comment

    • Sammy
    • 21st August

    Great summary of the state of things, keep it up! We need our top retailers to lead by example to help us along.

    Reply

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