People ask me lots of questions about my knowledge or what special skills I have that give me creative licence to write articles and opinions on the state of internet retailing in Australia. Well to tell you the truth I don't have any, and that's what my secret is. You see it's my ability to explore and ask questions about things I don't know about, or understand then group them together in some sort of logic (or illogic).
I am passionate about internet retailing and selling online. I got hooked on the internet in 1995, posted my first website in 1997 (don't think many people visited it but I loved building it and updating it). In 2003 while studying a post graduate course part time, I chose a unit called internet marketing, the text book for the course was written by Dave Chaffey a guru on internet marketing in the UK. In doing the course I realised how little I really understood the channel, so I started asking questions, and reading forums, and asking more questions. (Dave Chaffey is now a colleague by the way).
In between all this, a national retailer approached me to research and develop an ecommerce strategy for them. Talk about striking gold, I was in heaven. At the same time I learned first hand the politics of decision by committee, the inability for bricks and mortar retailers to actually grasp the technology behind a website, the infrastructure needed to support it and what needs to be done to drive traffic to a site. Oh, I almost forgot, the issues between designer, developer, ERP integrator, senior management, and poor me, the arbitrator, the piecemaker and pacifier or possibly even the fall guy if and when things went pear shaped.
This really got me thinking about the rest of retailing Australia and their experiences or opinions in looking at or doing online. Was this possibly a reflection why online retail in Australia was really in its infancy? I started to research this; There were all kinds of excuses why online retail doesn't work. Let's look at some of the most common:
- Australia not being a catalogue culture like the US. I thought this to be a load of bunk, the UK was not a catalogue culture and they rock online.
- Not enough internet users! Sorry 15.3 million users as of Dec 07 (74.3% of the population) is enough for me.
- Broadband uptake is weak. This may be true to a certain degree but look at these numbers 4,700,200 connections as of Sept 07, 23% of the populations (a long time ago by web standards) - Stats from: internetworldstats.com
I could go on and on but you get the point!
So where has it gone wrong? I have read every article scattered over the web about this topic, and boy was this frustrating to find. I don't have a definitive answer and I don't think all these hypotheses although interesting help those wanting to go online, as a matter of fact they are damn good propaganda not to go online, and that's probably what the reason is. It's become a self fulfilling prophecy. The big names in retail don't go online because its not in their shareholder's interests once they got burnt first time round, so the shareholders nod dumbly and don't trust online because the big boys say it cant work. So when some retailers do go online and test the waters maybe they face this distrust that has been bred into these people.
Ok, you get where I am coming from (or not).
I have therefore made it my mission instead to be a trailblazer and help find the holy grail of internet retailing in Australia, with my friends who have already gotten it right at Get Price, Catch of the Day, Deals Direct, dStore, directshop.com.au, Lasoo, Catalogue Central and all the rest of you that are selling on line and feeding your kids and paying your mortgages from your online incomes.
Instead of finding reasons why online retailing doesn't work, join me to share knowledge, come together and make internet retailing in Australia a success. I'm here for the greater good. I'll be passionately pursuing this topic regularly.