Is this the response your business elicits from your customers?We all know that e-commerce is becoming an increasingly important part of the Australian retailing landscape. In fact, Australians have spent a mammoth $13.9 billion online in the past year, which signals great opportunities for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to build and grow their online presence.
However, the latest findings of the Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that SMBs are still quite slow in their uptake of online retailing – less than half (44.4%) of SMBs are engaging online, despite the fact that 91.9% of Australian businesses have internet access.
Why is this so? The complexity of website creation, the amount of time and administrative work involved, and a lack of computer literacy have been some of the reasons put forward by various business owners. While these concerns are not without merit, there are many effective and convenient services, solutions and marketplaces available to simplify the workflow for SMB owners. In fact, small businesses must start considering how they can use online sales to enhance and complement their existing sales models, or face being overtaken – and, more often than not, taken over – by the multitude of nimbler, more efficient competitors out there.
Looking beyond eBay
Small and medium businesses tend to start their online retailer journey on marketplaces, eBay being the primary platform. Low barriers to entry, and low set-up costs (all you really need are products to sell and the ability to fulfil them) make it a logical choice. If selling on eBay proves successful, businesses should look to push their products out in more places to reach as many potential customers as possible – after all, consumers have many different preferred shopping habits. ChannelAdvisor’s e-commerce software solutions provide customisable and consolidated e-commerce management across a comprehensive range of channels, from Amazon, Trade Me and Facebook to comparison shopping engines like Shopbot. We have to – it’s the only way to provide the maximal reach and control that our retailer customers need.
A great case study of this multichannel approach is RetailSplash – in just a few short years, co-owners Neville Samuels and Dov Herdan have grown their business from selling video games on eBay (via their Dungeon Crawl brand) to now running three online multichannel retail brands under the RetailSplash umbrella.
Each RetailSplash brand sells across multiple channels – revenue is generated through each brand’s own dedicated website, as well as third-party platforms like eBay and New Zealand’s Trade Me. By looking beyond eBay and developing a clear, consistent multichannel selling approach, RetailSplash achieved $10 million in sales turnover last year, and gained the freedom to focus on growing its business. Not bad for a niche retailer! RetailSplash is a perfect example of how smaller businesses can “look bigger” by using digital technology to do a whole lot more for less.
If you’re a SMB owner and wondering how to go online, start thinking about:Inventory management –If you are thinking about selling across multiple channels, you do need to maintain careful management of orders and inventory levels so that products are distributed on each channel effectively. For example, RetailSplash has its data distilled into one single data stream so that the company can quickly identify and make inventory decisions according to changes in demand levels.Information is king – You should spend the time and effort to publish as much information about your products or services as possible. Smaller retailers often struggle to do this. However, the more information you have and put forward, the easier it is for shoppers to find your product on Google, comparison shopping sites and eBay.If in doubt, get advice – There are several options that retailers can take up to kick-start or grow their online business. Web agencies or independent developers can help retailers get up and running online; some also specialise in different vertical industries. Affordable open source cloud solutions, and automation services like ChannelAdvisor, are also worthwhile options.Invest in your own website – For more seasoned eBay sellers, it’s worth considering investing in your own webstore, which lets you ‘take back control’ of the customer experience and control your branding. You will also own the customer data and thus be able to harvest these customer details for marketing purposes.
By Mark Gray, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, ChannelAdvisor
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.