Growing Pains Still Haunt E-Commerce

Growing Pains Still Haunt E-Commerce

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Despite what have been rather dramatic growth numbers in the e-commerce world over the course of the last 10 years, many retailers are still struggling with striking the proper balance between brick-and-mortar and cyber selling.

Again, the growth numbers remain impressive with the latest U.S. Department of Commerce statistics showing e-commerce sales rose 25% to $86.3 billion last year from 2004. Those numbers are expected to jump significantly again for 2006 over 2005. However, we are discovering many major retailers, in and out of the imaging industry, that appear confused with exactly how to handle their Web sites. Much to our surprise there are even a few that had resisted selling product online at all. Bed, Bath & Body Works, for instance, just recently began selling a small portion of their in-store merchandise online.

Another statistic from the U.S. Department of Commerce clearly illustrates how much room for growth lies within the e-commerce world – e-commerce currently represents only about 2-3% of all U.S. retail sales. While that number is expected to grow rapidly in the next three to five years, many brick-and-mortar retailers, especially within the CE/Imaging industry, need to develop a solid Web strategy now.

“It’s not simply a ‘good idea’ anymore,” began retail analyst Martha Refik, “It’s mandatory in today’s retail environment to have a solid e-commerce strategy. Today’s consumer expects it and when it’s not present they will look and shop elsewhere.”

A recent report done by online analysts comSource Networks found that 25% of people who researched products online went on to buy the items. But some 63% of those purchases were completed at a physical store, not over the Web…numbers that clearly back up Refik’s claims.

She added that, done correctly, an online presence can become a, “wonderful marketing channel for the physical store.” Refik ultimately feels, for a purchase like a digital camera, combining a smart cyber-presence with the usual solid brick-and-mortar “service with a smile” is the best one/two punch a retailer can offer.

“The retailers that use the Web as an educational teaser by offering product along with some fun advice will get those same buyers into the store at some point to find out more and ultimately, to buy more,” she concluded.

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