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How can an off-line retailer compete on the Internet?

It happened again today. I stumbled across another article on if and how the Internet may kill local shops. Ok, I propose we pause a second and reformulate, with quite some optimism.

Competition is not between stores located on some street-corner and “The Internet”, but rather between those retailers who have learned or are in the process of learning how to leverage technology and those who haven’t.

And retail technology is getting easier every day!

A retailer that leverages technology is a retailer who thrives online

A retailer that leverages technology is a retailer who thrives online

Breaking news! There are plenty of traditional stores that are selling nicely on the Internet, and their number is increasing. To do this, they certainly had to adjust some of their processes and policies, but now they are thriving online despite the fact that eBay and the big guys are stronger than ever.

Bridging the gap between traditional retailers and online sellers

This mimics the confrontation between small local distribution and large malls that started in the 1960’s. But Amazon now is not like Wal-Mart back then: today’s online market is open and forthcoming retail technologies will open it even wider.

E-commerce today is only 7% of US retail spending and less than 5% in most European markets. This means that 95% of consumption still takes place off-line. So, while digital technologies are certainly here to stay and will increasingly influence the whole of retail commerce, most is yet to be done. We are just at the beginning of the “digitization of commerce” and this is really the best moment for any retailer or prospective seller to start learning how to move online and how to use digital technologies invented for retailers.

Online technology is becoming easier for both sellers and buyers

Websites are simpler to build and run, marketplaces and social sites are abundant and open, familiarity with online instruments is growing. It is commonplace to complete a transaction online and technology is making it easier and faster daily. By now, your bank is certainly equipped to receive online payments, as is your accountant and accounting system, while any courier you pick on the Yellow Pages (or Google?) now knows the nuances of b2c shipments. This wasn't the case just a couple of years ago. Since being online has become easier, you can now go out there and carve your space.

Where should you start?

We are publishing a few articles to help retailers thrive as commerce becomes digital around them. You are welcome to read and to ping us and ask questions.

As a general rule, start where you feel more familiar and progressively build your online presence with your own style. Are you on Facebook? Start there! Create your page and publish your products. You are a Twitter user? A Tumblr user? You like Pinterest or eBay? Start on Twitter, start on Tumblr, start on Pinterest or use eBay.

I just wanted to say that now is a good moment to start.