Online computer and laptop stores are in direct competition to bricks and mortar retail business, who are failing to keep up with the latest technological innovations. The growing trend in the online market is driving prices down and putting pressure on laptop prices, leading to smaller margins for retailers. This change is leading to complaints from some of the heavy weights of the retail industry who are complaining about these direct threats to their business operations. Retailers concerns are more about the threat to their bottom line, and less about their customers, despite what their marketing spin doctors shout out.
While many customers are weary of buying from overseas retailers, the Australian online industry is providing many customers with a convenient online shopping experience, with a physical presence and actual street address, to provide substance to their business operations. The days of an online retailer being a mysterious entity hiding behind a PO Box and pre-recorded voice message promising someone to call you back is gone. While many online retailers are still different to a fully-fledged retail shop, many retailers offer pick up services from their physical warehouse direct or head office. Most have complete contact details and sales staff to help with pre and post sales.
Company’s such as Overstocked Orders have built up a reputable online store in which is backed by their direct warehouse and sample showroom. While the showroom doesn't offer all items on display, it still provides a generous range of items to peruse, as well as the option to buy over the counter.
Other online retailers such as Bat Tech Express display an online showcase, offering its computer services and support division. In addition to their range of computers for sale, they also offer a broker like sales service. Customers fill out an online order form including budget, specifications, and other details, and then the sales team will arrange the best deal from their wholesalers and report back to the customer.
These online retailers have many great advantages from their bricks and mortar cousins. By not keeping large inventory stock, customers are getting the latest models, and generally not items that may have been sitting in a warehouse for 6 months. Margins are lower, leading to competitive pricing for consumers.
While bricks and mortar retailers will still be around for a while, issues such as the cost of commercial rents, staff costs in keeping a store open even if no customers are around, insurance and utility costs, location constraints, and even local Government laws are having a larger impact on retail businesses. An online retailer can maintain a smaller office, lower inventory, require less staff and have fewer outgoings, with the option to re-locate if location or local laws impact on their business without disrupting online operations.
The customer may lose out on being able to physically inspect goods though and this is where physical retailers hold their largest advantage. As always though, being a fully-fledged physical retail outlet store, online only, or a hybrid of the two, will depend on the decisions and foresight of management. As is true on all walks of life, it is the organism that can adapt the best that will survive.