“It’s too late, we’ve missed the boat” – that was offered to me around the board table of a large, publicly listed, Australian company for which I was charged with creating an ecommerce agency back in 2010. At the time, the cost to enter the market was six figures for mid-market brands and seven figures for the top end retailers. Online spend as a percentage of total retail was at around 2-3%. I think the board member may have got that call a little wrong.
In those days, even at that kind of investment, an ecommerce store had the potential to be a brands “best performing store” when compared to their bricks and mortar outlets (with rent, staff, utilities, fit out costs etc). However, it was still a hard battle for an agency to win because relatively little was understood by retail management who could see the value in a $20M store fit out but not a $2M ecommerce project that could justifiably deliver greater revenues than a single physical store.
Fast forward 10 years. Times have changed.
No, you haven’t missed the boat. In fact, in the relatively brief history of ecommerce there has never been a better time to enter the market than right now with the cost to implement technology extremely low and consumer behaviour moving to online purchasing at an all-time high and growing.
According to the NZ Post ecommerce Spotlight Report for July 2020, online spend is now at 12% of total retail here in New Zealand. For obvious reasons, COVID has taken online shopping to a new level and these numbers will continue to rise.
Good, Fast or Cheap?
For the past (ahem) three decades I have spent in software and technology I have used the mantra: You can have it good, fast, cheap. Pick any two. Because picking three was simply not possible given the complexity of getting any software project live. If you want a software project delivered fast and you want it to be good, you need to throw money at it; if you want something done cheap and fast, it won’t have all the bells and whistles you really want.
In my role as a Beachhead Advisor for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise I had an experience a couple of years ago that illustrates how the market and technology has advanced to the customer’s advantage. I was sitting in an executive management meeting and the CEO proudly showed me the sixteen page designs for his to-be-developed website that were delivered by an agency. Home page, product page, category page, checkout, FAQ page and more. Brand, colours, user experience all on point. Cost: $70,000. My jaw hit the floor. Good, fast but certainly not cheap. Nothing was said until after our meeting when the CEO called me out: “Sean, I noted your reaction. Do you see a problem?”. I had to let him down very carefully. I had just spent $49.99 on a pre-built ecommerce theme (with home page, product page, category, page, checkout and so on) for one of my customers. I overlaid their brand logo and colour/font guidelines and achieved an on-par result to the $70k of agency work. This was when I started to see things could be Good, Fast AND Cheap.
Good, Fast AND Cheap
Times have changed. With established ecommerce platform players like Shopify, Wix and WordPress you can now enter the market for low four figures – as little as a couple of thousand dollars and around $100 per month for the hosted ecommerce platform. The software is immensely configurable so you can make you site work for your brand very easily however all of the hard work around user experience, performance, look and feel has been done – with so many options.
The bottom line: the time is right. The risk to launch and learn with an ecommerce offering or to re-platform your existing platform and drive some cost out of your business has never been better.
There is more gold in this story if we dig a bit further.
The tools available to people in your business to manage customers, orders, stock, products and promotions are now user friendly. What I mean is your own team can now do all of this without external reliance. Gone are the days when you had to outsource the management of your ecommerce platform to get things done. This is incredibly important as it puts the power in your hands to manage your ecommerce operation without the creep of consultancy spend at, sometimes, exorbitant rates which eat into your margins and sting your profitability.
Rising from Obscurity
Of course, there is much more to selling via an online ecommerce solution than popping up website with a shop function. Just doing this is akin to having the best store and the best product… in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Nobody will find you and your sales results will disappoint.
There is a myriad of ways to take you from internet obscurity to online rock star and this is certainly where it pays to seek some sound advice. There are no silver bullets but there is good strategy to generate demand, nurture your leads if they are not ready to buy, find new customers (and keep them!) and increase your online sales.
Understanding the pros and cons of the various strategies and tactics to generate demand through digital channels is where you do need to seek a safe pair of hands.
In my next article, I outline the Top 10 Things to Think About to get you out of obscurity. It’s worth a read.
The Bottom Line
The time is now. With the cost of entry so low and the rewards in terms of sales, new customers and new markets for your business ever increasing it is time for action.
There is little to no risk other than an investment in some time to launch and learn your first ecommerce play or to replatform to a hosted solution that fits better and cheaper into your business.
Remember, talking is free. So, pick up the phone or send us a note and let’s see how we can orchestrate your growth.