This thread is exactly why retail in Australia is being decimated. Internet sales are huge and growing every day and it's not an even playing field. OS players are getting a GST free kick below $1000 (and above as per this thread). Our retailers pay higher labour and operating costs and higher taxes than most OS operators and as a result can't compete with the prices.
Who cares ? All good and well until you realise that retail is the biggest employer In Australia. It gets worse as the effects flow beyond the retailers. Seen how many vacant shops there are in many traditional shopping strips? The tenant mix changes in the strips as the retail stores go broke. You end up with a strip of take away shops, cafes and real estate agencies etc. What happens when you need something urgently, or want some advice? All of a sudden you miss those bricks and mortar stores. I buy online like everyone else; but I always try and give the retail store a shot at the sale. If they are reasonably close I'll support the locals every time.
Not sure what the solution is to all this; but it's not going to go away and ultimately there is a price to pay for killing our retail sector.
Interesting post - and one that a lot of people are coming to grips with. As background, my company (Uber) builds websites and online store / eCommerce solutions - as well as communities for companies and brands.
Every day, we see new customers - large and small - who are struggling with the same challenge, however there are things common to almost every project are that retailers can:
1. offer better service - in many cases they're being beaten out by websites that offer better information, more informative reviews, a wider range and better warranty terms
2. do more to reward customer loyalty - smiling when someone comes across the threshold is one thing, but knowing their purchase history, their preferences and likely products they'd enjoy adds value. Following up post purchase to make sure everything is ok, to ask for a review and to offer future benefits/discounts is becoming a service standard
3. be vastly more consistent - every employee should be a champion for the brand, the products and the customer. A disengaged salesperson kills the customer relationship. Customers want to know they are getting a fair price, that warranty terms are in place, that they can return if they are not happy and that the store will be glad to see them back regardless
So - what does a retailer do? In the list above there's nothing that retailers shouldn't have been able to do better than internet startups. In many cases they lag because of inertia and a lack of really trying to change - and these businesses will go to the wall. The solution we are seeing work time and time again isn't actually that hard - to summarise it is:
1. Replicate the best services from your web competitors
2. Partner with online competitors if you can't create your own capacity
3. Revenue share for each customer you bring onto a new platform
4. Put the customer first - if you don't stock a product instore - then train your salesguys to jump on the web WITH them and to show them options and push the order. You get a slice of the sale and the customer sees you'll do anything to help them.
In my experience, we're seeing a rapid takeup of 'instore/online' where customers can still have the 'tactile' shopping experience, but if needed the store can also fulfil their order online (which can mean drop shipping from overseas to price compete).
^ Longer post than I'd intended, but I love this stuff