A new study by Deloitte and Touche shows that while roughly one third of retailers with a Web presence consider their online store to be “strategic,” a majority have set up Web operations with no clearly articulated strategy and are merely “testing the waters to gauge Internet demand.”
The study of 400 brick-and-mortar retailers with Web sites found that those retailers that have taken a proactive approach to e-commerce are well ahead of their competitors. “These e-tail leaders have developed a strategy that integrates their Web efforts with other channels,” the study states. “Their e-Business effort is designed to win market share and mind share with innovative value-added service — not just to get a presence on the Web.”
By contrast, the study reports that 70 percent of the respondents do not yet have sites that are “advanced enough to automatically integrate Web purchases with their fulfillment and distribution systems.”
Most of these sites, according to the report, “lack full-time e-tail leaders and the staff necessary to achieve substantial success over the Internet. In fact, 50 percent of the respondents said they had no clear e-Business leader at their companies.”
The data was delivered at a keynote speech at the eTail2000 conference for online retailers being held in San Francisco, California on January 25-26.
“The Internet is not of strategic importance to the majority of the survey respondents,” said Bill Blumberg, National Director of Consumer Business for Deloitte & Touche. “This gives a substantial opportunity to those who are taking the lead.”
Forrester Reports Similar Problems
Deloitte & Touche is not the first company to explore the ambivalence with which many retailers approach e-commerce. In an earlier report on the difficulties that brick-and-mortar companies experience in their Web efforts, Forrester Research cited widespread organizational problems.
“Most companies have already created e-commerce groups, but they’re struggling with issues like funding, accountability and reporting relationships,” said Ron Shevlin, principal analyst at Forrester. “What these firms fail to realize is that organization affects everything from determining a company’s priorities to retaining great talent and attracting critical funding.”
“Post-Web retailers will need to do more than just sell everything to anyone,” said Seema Williams, consumer e-commerce analyst at Forrester. “To succeed, they must anticipate customer demand, expand their product and service offerings into adjacent categories, and simultaneously sell through multiple retail channels, including stores, catalogs, call centers, Web sites, interactive TV and mobile devices.”
Follow the Leaders
The study by Deloitte & Touche states that the leaders in the industry “have mastered the fundamentals of superior customer service, especially involving order fulfillment and customer service call centers/e-mail centers/chat centers.”
In particular, the study reports that the leaders “use technology to add value for consumers cost-effectively, enabling Web site personalization in real time, multi-channel customer information and relationship management, shipment track/trace, mass customization of products and services, automated upselling/cross-selling, personalized promotion, easily navigated information/education, and entertainment.”