Friday, December 02, 2005

Not Getting it Right is... just so WRONG!

A little delay in this week's blog as I have found myself dealing with a heavier than usual throng of customer related activity leading up to the Christmas break. As I have suspected in the last couple of quarters, the "starting gun for online services has definitely gone off" and our clients are starting work on some significant initiatives for 2005 - which is great for the business but is meaning some long nights for us.

All of this activity on the business front has meant that some of my personal administration activities have had to take a back-seat, but I did find some time to do some online shopping for Christmas over the last few late nights and I have to say that I have been *underwhelmed* by some of the experiences I have had.

Being a good Aussie boy, I have done my best to focus my online shopping to local companies, but gee, it has been tough!! I will tell you the story of the local online record store* with whom I tried to spend $300 online, only to have my order FAIL at various stages of the checkout process THREE TIMES (and I am much more persistent that most online shoppers). I didn't buy the DVDs I was looking for from them.

There was the online "department store" that offered me certain discounts based on certain combinations of products which again, when I went to the checkout, didn't flow through to the final shopping basket, and provided no mechanism to follow through on the offer. Again, no sale there.

There was the online store which waited until the last screen in the shopping process to tell me that three of the four things I wanted to buy were out of stock with a delay of 4 - 6 weeks (no good for Christmas).... again No Sale.

A pretty dismal experience on the main.

There were a couple of rays of sunshine. I have a real liking for the team at Mr Gadget, who I think are a smart bunch of guys who just sell great toys. Their order handling and customer service are both great and their catalogue is simple, clear and provides all the information you need! (I'll be spending more money with you guys!). And I liked the multi-path browsing implemented by www.toysandmore.com.au.

The sad thing for me has been the fact that despite some strong signs of amazing growth in the Online Services and eCommerce space, Australain Companies don't seem to be getting the message about the need to catch up with their international competitors. Despite the issues of international freight, currency conversion and delivery times, it was just easier for me to buy some of the things I wanted to buy online from international stores. That is about $400 which I spend off-shore this year that I REALLY wanted to spend at home.

For Australian retail businesses it really is time to get serious about the Online Services space (I know that I have been saying this since about 1994, but folks, that light at the end of the tunnel REALLY is a train! You need to get on board or get run over...). I saw some statistics this last weekend from a local company called DealsDirect.com.au. They have done some research which suggests that 2,300,000 Australians will shop online this Christmas and that they will buy around 9,000,000 items - that is a pretty serious market by anyone's account.

The critical mass for the online shoping market has been reached. The challenge for Australian businesses is that this market is squarely in the sights of your international competitors.

This market is different that the physical shopping environment and many retailers have struggled online because they try to repeat the physical model in the online space. The online consumer is sophisticated, has multiple "shopping personalities," is always looking for a deal, demands good service and is unforgiving .... they are always one click away from your competitors. You MUST learn to understand them and start to build relationships with them.

And you have to start doing this now.

The team I work with have been doing some very interesting work in optimising the online channels for our clients. A lot of this work in the past has been about the technical stability and capability of the platforms, and they have become pretty good at that. In the last couple of quarters, more customers are asking for help in improving the way customers use the Online Services we deliver and how to maximise the sales throughput. Some of this comes down to interface design and some of it to usability and information architecture - done well these activities will yield REAL results. We have one customer who exceeded their online sales targets to 30 June by more than 20% as a result of some of the work we have done.

This is a very big topic area and I could go on for hours about building online communities, the importance of peer referrals, the potential of rich-media content and more.... but I've got to get back to work.

In the meantime, when I do get back to my Christmas shopping, I will continue to try and Buy Aussie and Buy Online ...


*(you might remember records stores, it is what they were called before music came on CDs).... (come to think if it, you might remember CDS, it is how we used to buy music when we used to buy it an album at a time and before there were things called iPods and Googles and things....) - I am showing my age.... but I do love this stuff, because we get to change the world.....






2 comments:

Mr_Gadget said...

Hi Richard, thanks for the mention!

Benn said...

Are you aware that vinyl is still being pressed to this day?