Australia centre for retail studies says internet an opportunity, not a threat for retailers

Australian retailers should start to think about how the internet can help them reach the world rather than see it as a threat, says the Research Director of Monash University’s Centre for Retail Studies.

Speaking at CeBIT in Sydney, Dr Sean Sands cited fashion retailer Supre’s experiences as an example of how Australian retailers can reach out to domestic and offshore customers through social media, after the budget fashion brand refreshed its website and included a loyalty scheme that integrated perfectly with the program it offers in-store. The company also invested in a Facebook page and “really worked on it and responded to customers,” Sands told the conference.

The result was 342,241 Likes, at the time of writing, and an unusual spike of interest and orders from Singapore, a nation where Supre has never marketed itself and operates no stores.

“My guess is they are thinking about stores in Singpaore now,” Sands said, adding that “We are used to thinking about the threat of international competition from online. But it is also an opportunity to take your brand global.”

Sands also downplayed the threat of online sales to retailers, saying that the ACRS research shows that while many shoppers research online and use price comparison tools, that research still drives most consumers in-store to make a purchase.

He also said that new marketing tactics enabled by mobile devices, especially discount coupons, can help retailers to attract customers.

“The stigma around coupon collection and redemption is reducing,” he said, as coupons are sent directly to mobile devices that consumers use “like their wallets”.

While these technological possibilities can boost retailers, Sands also warned that some Australian retailers are yet to develop a good understanding of their customers’ online behaviour, and this will make it hard to target them with online tactics. He also said that a compelling in-store experience remains critical, citing OPSM’s Melbourne Eyehub, where customers can try on glasses in a wind tunnel to test their performance during sport, as the kind of experience that will attract customers.

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