Why a successful online retailer needs more than just good looks
By Ryan Murtagh
Still waiting to see if this internet thing catches on? No, I didn’t think so. Obviously, the retail
landscape has changed significantly in the last decade, with online purchasing continuing to
grab market share.
According to a report published by Australia Post last year (Inside Australian Online Shopping
2017), growth in online retail outperformed bricks-and- mortar by 6.9 percentage points in 2016.
In-store is still notably higher in pure dollar terms however, bringing in $261 billion for the 2016
calendar year versus $18 billion in goods for online retail (this figure excludes services and
For retailers today, it’s increasingly common to adopt a omni-channel approach — selling via a
mix of avenues including bricks-and- mortar, a dedicated webstore and one or more of the many
available marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. To stay ahead of the game you need a
compelling and functional online presence, but it takes much more than a nice-looking website
to attract and retain loyal purchasers and to increase your wallet share.
Your brand is everything…
One of the first thing business owners do when setting up is to create a website they believe
best represents their brand. Brand is important, of course, but it is so much more than a well-
designed logo or a catchy url – and this is where some business owners will come unstuck.
Just as in-store customers can be put off by a surly sales representative, online users place a
massive emphasis on the user experience — possibly even more so than in person — and they
are unlikely to revisit if that initial encounter is discouraging, difficult or otherwise negative. Even
worse, they’ll use every means possible to rate and review, alerting potential customers to their
woes, be they real or imagined.
…and everything is your brand
Importantly, all of this relates to brand. Sure, your brand encompasses your distinct look and
feel, but it is also every aspect of the interaction between your business and your customers.
If you can’t supply an order because your inventory information is inaccurate, it reflects badly on
your brand. If you can’t give an accurate shipping estimate because you don’t have a handle on
fulfilment, it reflects badly on your brand. If your return and exchange process is unwieldly, or
it’s hard to enter a promo code to receive a discount…you guessed it, it reflects badly on your
Of course, there’s worse news — any existing issues will probably be amplified when you
Why the back end matters
It’s easy to get lost in the aesthetics when setting up, making sure your website and webstore
looks as good as it can, but the real action is in the back end. Mechanics may not be as sexy as
a flash graphic design, but this is where the foundation for a better user experience is laid —
and a better user experience leads to greater brand loyalty and increased wallet share.
Whether you’re operating across one channel or ten, you’ve probably got your hands full.
There’s customer and supplier orders, inventory and stockholding, pricing, payments, shipping
and labelling to consider. If you can find the time — or aren’t consumed with putting out fires —
you might even try to review sales data, hoping to decipher enough to get better insights on
your customers and products.
If you’re so busy managing processes that you no longer have the time to develop your
customer base, it might be time for a change. Equally, if you’re considering expanding into
alternate channels to broaden your reach, it’s probably worthwhile investigating a platform that
provides a full end-to- end solution for ecommerce, point-of- sale, inventory and fulfilment. The
earlier in the process you implement a retail management platform, the better, giving you
increased opportunity to better serve your customers.
Online growth will slow, but it’s here to stay
Online purchasing is now considered in the mature phase and, while it will continue to grow
year-on- year, the rate of growth will probably slow.
Despite having access to international marketplaces, Australians lean heavily toward domestic purchases, which make up the majority of the nation’s online spending — about 79% of total online sales, according to the Australia Post research. It also found that customers are still inclined to visit instore to ‘try before they buy’.
This is all good news for Australian retailers, with smart business owners recognising the value
in an omni-channel approach, as they look for increased opportunity to get in front of interested
customers. Getting in the game is one thing but realising the efficiency gains that come from
utilising a suitable retail back-end platform is the real way to outshine competitors and delight
customers – one transaction at a time.
Ryan is the CEO of Neto