Agility a key ingredient to Success in Retail Industry
Posted: 12 April 2009 01:59 AM
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Online business is too difficult for me to maintain. How can I succeed in such a big online marketplace? I am surviving pretty well within my local region and do not have a need to go online or do any kind of online business.
 
You will probably disassociate yourself from the above kind of retailers but the fact is Survey done by Forrester in Year 2002 had 80% or more surveyed persons in UK(with an error percentage of 3-5% ) having the same or similar opinions as listed above.

Since then, over the period of last five years, things have changed drastically. Businesses today not only realize the benefits and necessity of being online but also are going online or doing some kind of business online.
To speak of the sales volume, in Year 2008, total online sales in UK surpassed GBP 59.8 Billion (source Reuters) up more then 28% over 2007.

Having had gone online, Retailers seem to ask the following questions

1.  I am not able to sell online through my website. What should I be doing?
2.  What are the benefits of being online?
3.  How can a customer be led to my website and to my online store to purchase?
4.  How much should I spend on my online business on a monthly basis?


•  Online business would need your time and attention
•  Online business would need significant investment (although much lower then any of your retail store)
•  Online business would need significant monthly expense for maintenance and marketing activities
•  Finally, Just for any other investment, You will have to Sow before you Reap

Being able to sell online and to maintain selling online, retailers will require focusing on the following three major aspects

1.  Website Design. Design your website keeping customer usability in mind. Web-Usability guideline is a good starting point to begin with. A good tool will not only help with the presentation but will also take care of what needs to be presented to user based on user behavior on the online store
2.  Marketing. Your website needs to be known and should bring customers and sales inbound. Sending out mail/ email shots, Being able to analyse customer behavior and demographics in your tool, Optimizing your store for Search engine, Having affiliates and stalls, Using Web 2.0 techniques, having presence in popular marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon, etc goes a long way in having both inbound customer and sales
3.  Customer Service. How is the customer treated before and after Sales? How prompt and detailed is the Technical Service provided by your Service Provider? In-fact Customer Service happens to be the single biggest factor to have repeat business. Remember it is easier (statistics say 6 times easier) to generate sales from repeat customer then from a new customer

On point 2, what are the benefits of being online?

Definitely, More Sales and More Revenue.
It may not necessarily mean sales through online store only. Having a store online not only helps you to sell online but also helps you to build your credibility with your existing and prospective customers.

Point is, online store goes a long way as a very effective marketing channel which may result in increase in your retail store sales. Most of the retailers have ignored or are unaware of this fact.

On point 3, How can a customer be led to my website and to my online store to purchase?

Having an ecommerce website is necessary for retailers but is not enough. It is very important to think about ways to increase your sales. Your website is a potential unknown entity in the world of internet and is and will be quite an arduous task to make it a known one.

So some of the possible ways to increase sales are

•  Having your presence in marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon and other market places. Remember, these marketplaces are quite popular with your current and your prospective customer base. So make them your ally
•  Support for Tele-sales
•  Sending promotional mail and email shots to your current / prospective customers
•  Using Web 2.0 Techniques
•  Having commission based affiliates and Stalls for everyone (Ritecart provides an innovative way of extending your ecommerce business to stalls, which can be placed in Blogs, Articles, practically anywhere on the web)
•  Optimizing your website for Search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN and others
•  Being able to add new marketplaces channels with ease and with very little effort
•  Cross marketing your multiple channels of business (All online and offline channels). Helps to increase customer confidence and your credibility in the market

On point 4, How much should I spend on my online business on a monthly basis?

There is no single $ amount to answer this question. But this point was put down to emphasize the need of significant spending on a monthly basis to maintain and run your ecommerce solution

At a high level, I would split these costs into following category

1.  Infrastructure cost – Cost of hosting and other regular third party services
2.  Maintenance and support cost – application support and maintenance cost
3.  Marketing cost – SEO, Ecasting services, other marketing activities
4.  Customer Support and Service

It is needless to mention that all of the above factors are critical and are very essential elements to your success.

To bundle up, it

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