What might be a bigger challenge for Australia’s retailers is that they generally haven’t been able to make the internet work efficiently for themselves yet. Established retailers are fumbling around much like newspaper publishers trying to work out the mix between print and internet. I’ve just checked the Harvey Norman site – as far as I can work out, I can’t buy anything on it. Gerry Harvey tried the web and found it didn’t work for him as a direct channel, so the site just exists to try to drive traffic to local stores.
This is from a column in the Sydney Morning Herald, weighing into the debate about demands from large old school retailers in Australia to charge consumers sales tax (GST) on goods bought online from overseas.
In a follow up article, they quote the Australian Retailers Association who say:
many large companies had been slow to embrace the internet. By contrast, small retailers were using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their wares.
”Small retailers are getting very savvy,” he said. ”Retailers are going to need to look at various forms of retailing to engage with their customers.”
Actually, I think this should be a wake up call for all large companies in all sectors in Australia. Over the last decade they haven’t just been slow to adopt online retailing but have been slow to adopt Web technologies for many aspects of how they do business. This includes government and the non-profit sectors too. This failure cuts across how companies deal with their customers to how they enable their own staff to collaborate.
I used to think it was just the Australian pragmatic character that didn’t buy into the technology hype in business. Now, I just wonder if its more a mix of arrogance and a lack of imagination that results in this failure to innovate?
It reminds me of a large Australian insurance company I dealt with recently online – when I encountered a bug, they told me that their Website wasn’t designed for the latest Web browsers and instead I should have been using Netscape Navigator or IE 5.5. WTF!
Large Australian companies don’t just need to start selling online, they have a decade of technology development to catch up on.