The truth about online retailing

The truth about online retailing

It is well-known that retail sales slumps are common as we hit the summer months.  While it’s also well-known that online sales are reliably and consistently booming as our High Streets close down, there have been reports of online selling slowdowns during the second quarter of 2018.

In fact, a procession of commentators have declared 2018 as “tough” for UK online retailers, as sales from tablets and smartphones begin to lessen and uncertainty around issues such as Brexit deepens.

While we have indeed been witnessing a number of online retail slowdowns throughout 2018, we should also consider that over the past five years the average annual sales growth for online giants Amazon and eBay have settled at around 24% and 7% respectively.

If you are starting or growing an online retail business in what appear to be the toughest of times, you can take heart in these figures.  However, there are some key considerations to take note of as we head into the second half of a turbulent year.

The pleasures – and perils – of customer feedback: as a bricks-and-mortar retailer, you can establish trust and encourage face-to-face interaction with your customers.   In an online marketplace, feedback is much more free-flowing, easy to provide and openly visible.  People feel a lot safer behind a screen than in front of a real person, which can encourage them to be brutally honest.

Responding to all comments and feedback in a timely, consistent and professional manner will help to strengthen trust and credibility online.

Managing peaks and troughs: we have all seen the crowds, long queues and unexpected chaos Build-A-Bear experienced as a result of its recent ‘pay your age’ promotion.

Yet for online retailers managing consumer chaos is a regular, if largely unseen, occurrence.  Orders can be placed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and there is often no predicting which promotions or products will be successful in the face of ever-changing demand.

Stock control systems can be extremely helpful for online retail businesses, no matter how small.  A good system will keep track of supplies and allow quick re-ordering of popular items, as well as helping to inform customers when they can expect items to be available.

International selling: If you run an online retail business, expanding into international sales is relatively easy, offering plenty of potential for growth, with plugin options offering to be able to translate listings and update prices for exchange rates automatically.

To ensure a smooth process however, issues such as VAT and international delivery options will need to be considered in detail.

There is no doubt that the retail industry is competitive and uncertain.  Yet with the anticipated increase in AI services, social media developments and ‘browserless commerce’ in the form of voice assistants, the future of online retailing does appear to be bright.  It is clear, however, that planning for success and stable growth has become more important than ever before.

Rickard Luckin offer a wealth of insightful services that include development advice, planning assistance, systems implementation and auditing, all carefully tailored to the needs of your business.   To find out more about how we can help you plan for a successful future, simply contact us.

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Mark Brudenell

Associate

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