Preview Article: Who’s Using the Web?

Late last year, research company, Wraith Dragon Media, conducted a study in NSW amongst hardware retailers, to ascertain the level of website activity and the use of on-line marketing. Below is an edited version of the report compiled by Stephen Cox in December, 2005…

The study surveyed more than 40 hardware retail businesses in NSW only, comprising Danks, Mitre 10 and HBT stores. Of those participants who indicated they have an online presence, 92% felt they experienced some increase in sales after their website went online. Despite this statistic, 67% felt their website was actually not a strategic solution.

Percentage of budget reserved for IT
64% of participants reserved 5%– 0%, followed by 24% who reserve 0%–5%, and the other 12% reserved 10%–20% of their budget for expenditure on IT and technology.

Obviously, technology holds a certain level of importance to the hardware retail industry and results indicate that technology is considered an integral part of running a successful hardware store.

Further implementation and correct use of technology in areas such as POS, servers, networks, backup, and online applications, eg shopping carts and debtor portals, will most likely see further efficiencies gained in areas such as stock and debtor management and increases in sales, profit, customer loyalty, and market share.

Current POS Software Provider
We encountered a wide and varied range of POS software packages being used by participants including Computakey, Readysell, Sympac, and Pacsoft to name but a few. Some Danks participants indicated that despite the fact they were not currently using it, they preferred the Danks in-store computer system called DART.

Suggested improvements for POS software providers
The main areas of concern for hardware retailers regarding POS software packages and their providers included:

 

  • Lack of adequate support
  • Slow and/or bad service
  • Bad communication
  • Hidden fees and charges
  • Lack of payroll module
  • The accounting side of some POS are well below par
  • Lack of reliability and stability of the system and the network, and
  • High rates of errors generated by the system.

 

Do you have a website?
81% of participants indicated that they did not currently have an online presence. This exposes an area of possible future utilisation and expansion by the hardware retail industry and an indication that the industry is behind others, such as real estate, in utilising the web as a strategic solution. Those who take the leap first and become well established, will reap the rewards in the long run as the competition slowly wakes up and realises they are missing out.

If you can establish a website that keeps visitors coming back, this can become habitual for them and they will prefer to stick to visiting your site, rather than your competition’s new site. Additionally, in the future it will become harder and harder to get listed high on search engines such as Google as key words become more and more competitive. Google has to some degree what is popularly called a “sandbox” where newly released sites are placed and don’t receive high rankings (sometimes even if Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work has been completed) for a period of time. While sites which have been around for a while and are well established, are considered by Google to be more important and so appear higher in search results.

Did sales increase once the website went online?
Of the other 19% of participants who do have an online presence, 92% indicated that they experienced some increase in sales after their website went online.14 million Australians are now online and they use the web every day to help them make consumer decisions. With a correctly utilised online presence you effectively have unlimited floor space and a shop front in potentially 14 million Australian homes nationwide.

To read the rest of this article, go to the Australian Hardware Journal’s January 2006 issue.