Stand up and be counted – join the online retail race March 15, 2013 19:43

I have never been as excited, as I am now, about the potential for consumer direct, online retail in Australia. I have been privileged to have been an early mover in online retail in Australia, and this is well and truly our time!

The convergence of circumstances is pointing the tide fairly and squarely in our direction. The strong Australian dollar, a return to ‘value’ by consumers (frugal is well and truly the new ‘cool’), improvements in consumer direct logistics and supply chain, traditional bricks and mortar retailers (finally) getting online, the emergence of some powerful local pure play Australian retailers, improving customer experience, time poor consumers flocking to the ‘convenience’ piece of the consumer direct model, the list goes on. There has never been a better time for e-commerce entrepreneurs to up the ante, and for so called traditional retailers to embrace the digital channel.

Official Recognition

Wrapped around this ‘perfect storm of circumstances’ is of course government recognising on many levels that getting behind e-commerce makes enormous sense. Why? Clearly the internet has provided and continues to provide enormous opportunities for small business in Australia. Whilst we need to be careful not to understate barriers to entry (this ecommerce game is hard work!), none-the-less small business entrepreneurs are coming onboard in droves, exploring business opportunities on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.  They are also generating revenue from mobile applications and the veritable eco-system has been spawned from social media platforms.

Government also recognises that telecommuting has never been more within our grasp, and that commercial decentralisation could be more than a fantasy in the digital economy. Real benefits for rural Australia are coming clearly into view. As we, not unexpectedly, relinquish manufacturing to China (the manufacturing center of the world), Australia is becoming, as it should, well and truly the clever country, turning to our most valuable asset of all – intellect, and intellectual property. We have a rich vein of talented, innovative and educated practitioners, both in technology, retail and distribution. I believe we are just starting to see the ‘green shoots’ of this focus. And this groundswell of innovation will be fanned along by generational transition, and increasing focus on technology at schools and universities.

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

So, what e-commerce business would I go into if I was starting now? I am often asked this question, and frankly I don’t have a crystal clear answer. I am pleased I co-founded when I did, and it is a terrific business, with great people. But if I had to start from scratch today, I guess I would focus on a niche opportunity. I think finding a small underserviced but hardy segment and trying to own it would be a sound strategy. With things going in cycles, I also believe there will be a resurgence in dynamic (auction) pricing online, particularly aimed at rare, collectible, second-hand, hard to find, hard to value goods.

The good folk at Power Retail have asked me to let them have a monthly piece. Please let me know if there are any topics of specific interest to you.

So in conclusion, whilst I consider myself a ‘feet on the ground’ kind of bloke (hey I survived the tech wreck to tell the tale!), none-the-less I feel a massive groundswell of opportunity coming our way. This is well and truly the time to either start your new e-commerce venture, take your offline business online, or perhaps simply time to unleash the hounds! As I have said to the offline retailers grumbling about the growth of offshore online, don’t sit in the kitchen sulking, join the party!