Are You Burying Your Head in the Sand?

Chris Foster

Over the last month I have read a number of articles which reaffirm the importance of your business having an online and/or social media presence. I sourced these articles whilst researching my presentations for the Social Media Workshops that I presented for the Wimmera Development Association around the Wimmera in May and June.

The first article was based on research carried out for the Centre for Retail Research. The subsequent report, Retail Futures 2018, predicts that more than one in five of Britain’s high street shops will close by 2018 as more customers turn to the internet for their shopping. This means that 62,000 shops could fold over the next five years resulting in over 316,000 workers losing their jobs! In Britain, online shopping accounts for 12.7% of retail spending. This is expected to surge to 22% by 2018. The report indicated that the first closures will be pharmacies and health and beauty stores, followed by those selling music, books, cards, stationery and gifts as well as DIY outlets.

The second article was based on a study undertaken in Australia by Roy Morgan Research. This study revealed that the number of Australians shopping online has tipped 50% for the first time. Further, growth in the online retail sector was over 12% in the last year. The most popular online purchases were leisure and travel, which made up 45% of online purchases, followed by fashion at 23.4%.

In Australia, online shopping accounts for 9% of retail sales (compared to 12.7% in Britain), indicating an average of $285 per week per person spent online. Further, smartphone shopping is growing rapidly with around 50% of Australians now owning a smartphone. This is making consumers more savvy with online shopping. Consumers now don’t need to go home to access the internet and are now using them on site to check prices, availability and undertake research. In fact, Smartphone use has grown over 101% in the past year – and 6.6% of people with smartphones have actually bought something online with it recently. However this is guaranteed to grow as access is 24/7, rather than having to go to a shop that is only open particular hours. Another interesting fact is that 60% of people use the internet more than once a day.

So, is your business online? If not you are taking a major risk – and missing out on potential opportunities.
If you are online, how easily is your website found when you do a Google search for your type of business? If your webpage does not come up on the first page of a Google search, it will be ineffective. You must ensure that your website is search engine optimised.

You also need to consider whether your website is compatible with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. How well does it perform? If it doesn’t perform well, you may need to establish a mobile compatible webpage, linked to your main webpage.

Remember, Google is the new yellow pages – ignore it at your peril!

And then there’s social media – the topic of earlier Blog posts. Something all businesses should consider including in their marketing activities!

There has been a fundamental change in the way business is conducted. Things will not return to the old days. Grasp the opportunity that you now have!

One final point – If you are a commercial property investor with a retail tenant, beware! If the trend predicted in Britain eventuates in Australia over the next 15 years, 20% of retail premises will be vacated. This means that there will be less competition for retail space. Unless you can find an alternative use for the property, this means that rents will reduce, if you are lucky enough to find a tenant! On a trip to the US earlier this year, I was astounded by the decimation of the CBD of many substantial cities. In general, the CBD comprised boarded up properties or second hand shops. Now, the circumstances in the US may be different to ours – however, I am always mindful that overseas trends are in some way followed in Australia.

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