Online shopping took off this Christmas
Anyone thinking about growing their business in 2014 should have at least one eye on the online market. Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show online sales grew at their fastest rate for three years in December – at 19.2%. The data shows that shoppers are increasingly letting their fingers do the walking and using technology to shop from the comfort of their homes.
Marketing analysts have been directing their clients to the web for years now, and it seems that the chickens have come home to roost for anyone smart enough to have run with the advice. The BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor shows that ecommerce made up a sizeable 18.6% of all non-food retail sales in the month. This is up from the 16.5% that online shopping accounted for the previous year.
Helen Dickinson, director general at BRC, said: “As expected, more of us clicked into Christmas than ever before, with online non-food sales growth putting in its best performance since March 2010 and accounting for nearly 20% of spending. The surge in the use of tablets and smartphones last year, together with the ever faster delivery times achieved by an increasing number of retailers, have provided a new spur of growth to online shopping. It is precisely this growth in the adoption of new technologies that should feature as a major focus in any future expansion plans.”
Offering the customer flexibility in the way they want to shop is the way forward.
Data on the latest retail trends shows that online shopping is much more than filling up an imaginary basket and clicking BUY. Many customers like to compare prices online before hitting the high street by foot, while others may snap up the bargain they want from their sofa before going in-store to pick up the goods.
The watchwords of ‘flexibility’, ‘choice’ and ‘convenience’ have seen retailers invest heavily both in their websites and in their ability to deliver the goods on time.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “With one in five items bought on the internet in December, this really was an online Christmas for the retail sector. The statistics show that whilst store sales continue to flatline, online sales remain the main driver of growth for the sector, contributing nearly three-quarters of the uptick in non-food sales in the last quarter of 2013. The winners this Christmas were those retailers with slick multichannel operations, who could offer consumers the flexibility to shop how, and when, they wanted to. Retailers now need to focus on the ‘last mile’ and figure out how to get the item to the customer even faster. Retailers who can offer same-day delivery, at a reasonable price, will be the winners in the race for sales in 2014, and steal a march on their competitors.”
The benefits of an accessible website for pulling in international business are obvious. When it comes to online shopping, the world is your oyster. So market your site as secure and reliable in order to attract and retain customers. If they are confident about receiving their goods, then your business may just as well be two miles away as two thousand.
David Rimmer, chief operating officer at Rakuten’s Play.com, said: “Trust for the brand is absolutely paramount, in fact our own research shows that almost 50% of consumers consider reliability to be most important when purchasing online. With trust trumping price for some consumers, retailers shouldn’t compromise their retail site or promise of delivery if they hope to profit from the growing ecommerce industry this year. Retailers can continue the record Christmas for online, but only with an online offering that will deliver every time.”
Top tips for international expansion
With your website firmly in place, you can press ahead with your battle plan. Here are some top tips to help you avoid the pitfalls that may await you:
- Know your audience – A little research goes a long way. There’s no point selling coals to Newcastle. And once you’ve established the fertile ground, brushing up on the local customs can put you one step ahead of the competition and potentially prevent you from making a cultural faux pas. Not everybody speaks the lingo, so look into translating your site for your biggest audience.
- Join forces with a local business partner – Make sure this person has connections in the industry and knows the area well. They should serve as a link between you and the country you are doing business in. This will be great for understanding the local economy and making connections with the business community.
- Know the law – Doing international business means knowing the local rules. Regulations vary in different countries. It is important to respect and understand the banking, tax and labour laws where you plan to do business.