With experts touting the economic crisis as an opportunity to grow, businesses are turning to online retailing as a cost-effective way to promote their activities. One company that has found much needed success through their internet strategy is dStore, Australia’s largest online shopping store. dStore CEO Andrew Cooper spoke to Jessica Stanic about the benefits of online retailing and why more companies should be jumping on the web.
The uptake of online retailing has been quite steady in recent months, with consumers looking for cost-effective and convenient solutions for their shopping needs. Research released by online marketing and business solutions company Coremetrics, has shown that online retail spending experienced a significant boost in March of this year, with consumers purchasing 12 percent more items online, compared to the previous month.
Similarly, the average dollar value increased by more than four percent, suggesting that not only are consumers buying more items online, they are actually spending more money on average than they had the month before.
John Squire, chief strategy officer for Coremetrics said that the results signal consumers are seeking out alternative retailing options.
“We’re seeing online purchasing behavior that is strongly tied to consumer attitudes about the bigger economic picture, and the best retailers out there are finding ways to appeal to consumers who are spending their money more thoughtfully.”
Cooper believes that the appeal of online retailing comes down to three simple concepts: convenience, price and availability.
“Online shopping is growing in popularity because it is convenient. We all lead busy lives and don’t have time to race down to the shops and trawl through every aisle in the hope that we find what we are looking for. With online, you can find what you are looking for with the click of a button.”
dStore has grown from strength to strength since Cooper bought the business in 2001. They were recently awarded the Best Online Shopping Website at the prestigious NetGuide Web Awards held in Sydney last month, and can now lay claim to the fact that they are the largest online shopping store in Australia.
However, Cooper stresses that they had to work hard to get the business to where it is today.
“The business model was failing when we took over the company. We had to work very hard to make the business model viable, while at the same time convincing the major retailers and the Australian press that we were a legitimate retailing business.
“Major retailers in Australia and the press don’t take online retailing seriously. Online retailing is somewhat under the radar in this country.”
Cooper believes that while this could be seen as a disadvantage, they turned it into a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the market.
And capitalise they did, with dStore offering over 800,000 products to consumers, carrying more stock than any individual retailer. According to Cooper they have an advantage over their competitors through their broad range of stock, speedy delivery and exceptional online customer service.
“We try to be very clear about who we are. We offer an incredibly broad range of products for customers who are time poor, speedy product delivery, and most importantly, exceptional customer service.
“The struggle with online is that you lose that interpersonal connection. We find that the customers prefer to help themselves and dig for information first and only then if they can’t find what they are looking for they can call us up. We have a team of staff who handle customer enquires and are always available to field calls. We don’t keep our customers on hold, as we realise they are time poor and looking for speedy service.”
So what type of people visit dStore? According to Cooper the client base is quite varied, due to the nature and reach of online, however he has found that 70 percent of their customer base are female working mothers, from middle to affluent households; while the remaining 30 percent are time poor executives who don’t have the time to invest hours into shopping.
Cooper stresses the importance of knowing your market and implementing effective marketing strategies to target your customer base, whilst being able to differentiate yourself from the competition at the same time.
“ Most of our products online are heavily discounted and the average discount for some items is 65 percent off the regular retail price. We also stock a number of clearance items that come directly from the suppliers so we can afford to pass those discounts directly onto the consumers.”
Such strategies have paid off as their sales are up, despite the current economic situation.
“Online is not immune to the recession, but it is the best place to be during tough times. It is a fantastic medium to market a unique product, across a variety of niche markets.”
For any small business looking to invest in an online store, Cooper provides the following advice:
- Market your brand correctly. It is easy to set up an online website, the challenge is providing a point of difference and establishing your brand in the marketplace.
- Be clear about your objectives and strategy
- Have a good business model in place
- Find out who your customers are and what they want
- Execution is key. Consumers don’t experiment in tough times and they tend to gravitate towards the brands they can trust. Make sure your marketing strategy will bring the customers in and keep them.
To find out more about dStore, please visit www.dstore.com.au
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