Dynamic Business Logo
Home Button
Bookmark Button

How to take your retail store online

Many forward-thinking businesses have spent a lot of money on beautiful branding websites that showcase what they do, how they do it, who they do it for and so on, but are they missing an opportunity to develop an additional revenue stream? Unfortunately, many of these businesses are yet to move to a fully e-commerce-enabled site from which they can sell their products to their customers online at relatively low cost.

ecommerce onlineE-commerce can turn local retailers into global e-tailers, but businesses need to decide if they are prepared to ship anywhere in the world and also if they can cope with the increased demand selling online will generate, if it’s done right. Your job as an online retailer is to create a simple, fast and efficient shopping experience for your customers. My advice is to focus on what they need from you and not what you want to give them.

Benefits of e-commerce

Online sales are growing steadily in Australia and there is still great growth potential as more people are regularly buying goods and services online. However, a word of warning: international retailers (from the UK and USA in particular) are increasingly shipping (at low cost) to Australia and taking market share from local operators. Australian retailers need to consider selling online now to protect themselves from this threat.

Another great thing about e-commerce is that it is scalable. You don’t need ten times as many staff to sell ten times as much product online. In addition, the upfront investment is typically similar to that of setting up a new retail store, but the operational costs are much lower.

An e-commerce site can dovetail with an existing loyalty program, or be the start of one. Ongoing customer contact via email can drive additional revenue and can be operated very cost-effectively.

Is e-commerce right for my business?

E-commerce isn’t right for every type of business. For example, you probably wouldn’t buy clinical therapy, cosmetic surgery or decide on the intricacies of a wedding in an online store without a personal consultation by phone or in person. Ask yourself is this what my customers want? Will there be a demand online for my products?

E-commerce needs to be part of your overall business strategy and is not something that should be considered a technology decision. You need to build a business case to work out if it is the right decision for your business.

Fulfilment is also a very important consideration if you are going to sell your products online.  You need to ask yourself whether your supply chain is ready and capable of handling the increased orders that will come via the internet. If not, you could consider third party fulfilment companies.

Getting the timing right

When is the right time to move to an e-commerce site for a business? If you already have a good retail offer and a loyal customer base, consider surveying them to see if they would buy online from you. Do your competitors sell online? What about similar companies in the UK or USA?

Many wholesalers and distributors are moving into selling direct to customers online, you need to ask yourself whether this is a threat or an opportunity for your business.

What other IT projects are underway, are you considering a new ERP (business management software) or POS (Point of Sale) system, if so does this support e-commerce?

Cost justification

Before you embark on an e-commerce development, you need to consider if the business has the budget for the initial work as well as ongoing enhancements, updates and marketing, so you need to develop a business plan with the help of an experienced partner company (such as a digital agency or e-commerce specialist).

What should we do first?

What are the steps that a business that wants to embark on an e-commerce development project should take?

  1. Research your competitors and other international retailers to see which are selling online and which are not. Buy something from them! How was the customer experience? Is there a customer demand for your products online?
  2. Consider your objectives, what would success look like? How much risk are you willing to accept, or are you risk adverse? How much will you invest in the site?
  3. Educate yourself. Speak to a trusted partner, either an experienced agency or consultant, get their advice on your circumstances. Look for seminars that have an e-commerce focus.
  4. Put a brief together. Most retailers use external companies for building and supporting e-commerce sites. Ask for suitable recommendations for good partners.
  5. Select the best agency for the job, based on your needs and budget.

Securing commitment internally

The best way to go about an e-commerce project is to nominate a project sponsor or champion. Ideally you will have an internal resource with e-commerce experience, even if only a part-time consultant.

There are a lot of internal decisions that need to be made around pricing, promotions, inventory management, fulfilment – your current marketing department may not be the best people for the job.

Choose the right digital agency

Make sure the digital/e-commerce specialist you choose has experience with similar projects, and a proven track record. You should check their references and ask if past clients are happy with their work.

You should choose someone who offers more than just software, but offers good strategic advice that will ensure the success of the site.


“If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t actually work online and you can’t rely on word of mouth endorsements alone. You need to develop a plan for how will you promote the website once it has launched. You need to consider how you can use online marketing in partnership with other marketing channels you already use.

Search engines are an important source of traffic; you need to consider search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine advertising (or Pay Per Click) early in the project. Consider how social media such as Facebook and Twitter can help to drive traffic to your site and build customer loyalty.

Tim O’Neill is joint managing director, Reactive (www.reactive.com), a global digital agency with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, London and Auckland. They offer strategic and creative web design, development and digital marketing services.

What do you think?

    Be the first to comment

Add a new comment

Tim ONeill

Tim ONeill

View all posts