We wanted to ask industry leaders whether they thought that it’s really possible for a business in 2019 to survive long-term without some form of ecommerce. We, of course, understand the importance of having an online presence – and how influential social media can be in elevating a brand and business – but just because we recognise this as a given, does this really mean ecommerce is essential too?
There is, without doubt, a huge demand for purchasing things online from consumers, and we often hear that high streets are struggling whilst ecommerce thrives. If you have a service or product that can be sold online, and you are not yet doing so, how detrimental is this for the growth of your business?
David Banger, founder of Change Lead and author of Digital is Everyone’s Business
There are several factors that an organisation needs to contemplate for their digital business strategy. The extent of their digital offering should consider the season of their market they are servicing and the industry they are operating within. If you are thinking about what to take online, commence with content that complements your existing business. As the market evolves, a transaction capability could be introduced to support customer interactions. The customer interacts and then transacts on the content. This capability may allow the organisation to differentiate itself to its competitors. If differentiation is beyond being the lowest price; backend technology should be explored to scale the offering.
Jill Schoolenberg, Senior Vice President for Canada, Australia and Latin America at GoDaddy
Consumers today are increasingly turning to online channels to purchase products and services. That’s why, for businesses suited to selling online, an ecommerce offering can be a great way to meet that demand in almost any industry. It allows businesses to serve their customers from all over the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
However, setting up an ecommerce offering isn’t necessarily suited to every business. And for businesses who are suited, it’s important to first have a plan. There are many things to consider, such as setting up an inventory control system, choosing shipping and payment methods and establishing a returns process. If you decide your business is suited to it, committing time to developing and implementing an ecommerce strategy can help ensure you can provide an appealing, convenient and user-friendly online service for your customers.
Shannon Ingrey, Vice President and General Manager, APAC at BigCommerce
Gone are the days where businesses can rely solely on selling in store. With consumers increasingly spending more time online, brands need to accommodate to these growing demands or risk falling behind. We can see that more consumers than ever are turning to online giants like Amazon and eBay to purchase goods. It’s time for traditional brick and mortar retailers to look into ways to either set up their own online presence, or leverage the presence of bigger players to sell their own goods online, if they’re to compete within the current market.
It’s no secret the future of retail will be all about the experience for the customer, and the growth of multi-touch experiences. To remain competitive, businesses must offer customers a seamless journey across both online and in store. Retailers that fail to adopt an omnichannel approach to selling risk falling behind and losing relevance for their customers. While it’s natural for a brand to begin by selling on one sole platform, it’s important that they embrace change and develop a presence across channels if they’re to compete in the current market.
Dave Scheine, Managing Director at POS software company, Vend
The retail industry has dramatically changed over the past few years and those retailers who are not current with consumer trends will struggle to survive. Today shoppers expect to find and buy products from multiple channels whether that be asking Alexa, shopping in store, online and on social media. Consumers want eco-packaged, ethically sourced, on-trend goods, as well as inspiring store experiences and curated product ranges.
Retail businesses which capitalise on this shift and put customers at the centre of their offerings are set up well to thrive. Retailers more than ever need to provide a seamless omnichannel sales experience. This new world order offers an opportunity for independent retailers to tap into technology to run their businesses more efficiently. By taking their retail management to the cloud, and using Vend’s powerful POS software, independent retailers can win by increasing their profits, saving time and creating a loyal customer base.
Sreelesh Pillai, General Manager, Freshworks Australia
We are living firmly in an online world and any business attempting to succeed without an online offering is a very brave one. Online shopping will only continue to grow, Australia Post estimates that it accounts for 1-in-10 dollars spent each year — around $27.5 billion, up 24 percent on the same time last year.
However, the extent to which a business is “online” can differ and is often strongly dependent upon the sector they operate in. For example, few would buy a new car entirely online, without visiting a showroom — yet the majority of us book flights and accommodation online, without requiring a physical or human interaction.
A business not wanting to offer an online point of purchase, at the very least, online can supplement or augment an existing shopping experience. It can raise brand awareness, provide extensive browsing options or exist as a customer service portal.
Chris Rich, Head of Business Success, Square Australia
The way we consume is rapidly changing. Customers are accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. They can get food delivered from any restaurant, at any time of day. And they can get everything from clothes to groceries delivered to their door in just a few hours.
If you’re a business that doesn’t sell through an online channel, you’re missing out on sales. Australians spent $28.6 billion on online shopping last year and that figure is only set to increase as popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook continue to expand in-app purchasing options. Even if you’re a business on a budget there are now more free and low cost tools than ever to help you sell online. Whether it’s trying out a free website builder like Square Online Store or simply joining an online marketplace, think Esty or eBay, there’s no reason you should be missing sales online.”
Nima Yassini, CEO and founder, New Republique
Generally no, every business needs a level of presence online. What that channel does, however, is the real question.
Many retailers make their online channel like their retail offering, which means online and offline experiences compete. Retailers won’t drive offline traffic online for fear of cannibalisation. This limits growth. Businesses must consider what part of the customer experience is online and find a balance of online informing offline or vice versa.
The other challenge is that not many businesses can connect across the customer experience because the tech channel integration is often difficult and expensive.
Customers today don’t see businesses as online and offline as they used to, they expect brands to be on all channels and available when they are ready to buy. Businesses need to establish the role ecommerce plays in the journey and identify how tech solves the problem so they can create a multi-dimensional experience.
Steve Traplin, CEO APAC, Groupon
Small businesses need to be where their audiences are, and that’s why it’s so important to be online. A recent study found 87% of Australians are active internet users and 93% are using it every day, so there’s no better way to meet potential customers. Regardless of time and place, the online market offers a face to the brand, no matter what type of industry you’re in, and it’s often one of the first touchpoints of the business. It also gives owners the opportunity to react quickly to customer enquiries and gather feedback in real-time.
Having an extensive online presence is important, such as a website, an online shop, social media accounts, and through search engines. However, for small businesses, this can be a little overwhelming, particularly as they juggle accounting, finance, marketing, customer service, logistics and more. However the beauty of being part of the digital world is that there are a range of tools which help ensure your trading is managed efficiently and effectively. Listing your product or service on platforms such as online e-marketplace Groupon, provides small business owners the means to get noticed, creating opportunities for the customer to trial your brand, and ideally enticing them to return.
Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist
Changing consumer habits, and the recent arrivals of the likes of Amazon and Alibaba to the Australian market have created a necessity for businesses to venture into e-commerce. By digitalising their operations, a business can easily connect with consumers who are increasingly turning to online channels rather than going to the physical stores. An online offering doesn’t have to replace a physical brick-and-mortar presence, but instead supplement it; allowing businesses to provide a personalised, user-friendly and convenient service to today’s consumer, wherever they shop.
The digital e-commerce landscape is extremely competitive, so businesses looking to sell successfully online must innovate and offer a superior customer experience. With technology now more affordable, accessible, and powerful than ever, businesses should seek out a commerce platform that merges front- and back-office applications rather than trying to build one out piecemeal from different vendors. The platform approach offers customers an omni-channel solution that brings together all areas of operations and gives store owners pertinent analytics and a top-down view, so they can focus on other areas of the business and find more success.”
Director for Emarsys ANZ, Heath Barlow
A business can survive without an e-commerce offering, but not well. Last financial year, Australians spent $279.1 billion on retail. For every retail dollar spent, 10.5 cents were spent online. Clearly, it’s too soon to predict the death of bricks-and-mortar retail, but with online goods spend growing at 20.8 per cent year-on-year, I can confidently predict that in the near future, most sales will take place online.
In 2019, not having an online presence is a missed opportunity. A well-thought out, intelligent e-commerce strategy can drive a traditional retail business’ growth. By uniting online experiences with the existing offline one, brands can reap the advantages of both. Online channels can drive offline purchases and vice versa.
Ultimately, consumers hold the power and decide where, when and how they interact with a business. Retailers that don’t provide options to consumers will struggle in today’s landscape.
Heath Fitzpatrick, Chief Operating Officer, ebroker
Of course, a business can survive without an online offering, it just depends where and what the business is. There are certain products and services that may take time or may never be accepted as online offerings. Then there are others that, if you have no online offering now, you may never be able to get ahead of the curve and survive long term.
There are other businesses whose model for customer experience, ordering and delivery will change as customer demand and expectations shift.
Whether you’re a large or small business, you need to understand where your product/service sits with your customers and develop the offerings appropriately.
Dirk Steller, founder and managing partner of fintech-focused VC firm Seed Space
Maintaining an online offering represents a critical channel for engagement for Australian FinTech businesses today, particularly when facing an increasingly digitally-native audience. Figures from Salesforce’s 2019 State of the Connected Customer report showed 54% of customers think companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage, with 84% saying the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services. As customers become familiar with exceptional new digital customer experiences, they start to expect the same standard from everyone they do business with, and those who fail to adapt their businesses accordingly do so at their own peril.
Millennial consumers today place far greater emphasis on digital forms of engagement – seeking instant connectivity and seamless customer experiences that allow them to make purchases and transact on the go. The coming generations, both millennials and to an even larger extent iGen, will place far less importance on face-to-face personal relationships. They are much more likely to interact through electronic means and this is where maintaining a strong online presence is key. For Australian FinTechs to be truly successful, they must always look to evolve their current offerings to keep pace with the changing nature of customer experiences and be developing strategies centred on digital engagement through online channels that allows them maximum cut through and visibility to remain relevant.
Chris Stolke, Manager & Head Digital Strategist, Pronto Woven
There is now no line separating online and offline. Retailers – indeed most businesses – can’t survive without a strong online offering. A recent study we did with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) found that 85% of Australian retailers value having an online sales channel with almost half currently investing in or expecting to invest in e-commerce.
The majority of purchases are however still completed in store – and retailers who focus solely on online, sacrificing their physical stores, may short change themselves. A recent study  from the International Council of Shopping Centres found that, “when a shopper spends $100 online and then goes to that retailer’s bricks-and-mortar store, within 15 days, they will spend an additional $131, on average.”
Our most profitable retail customers seamlessly integrate their operations – across online and in store. They deliver consistent buying convenience for their customers, at every touch point – driving trust. They leverage their data and insights they gather from one channel, to improve the other, sharpening their overall competitive edge and driving sales revenue.